LOS ANGELES ZOO CELEBRATES LUNAR NEW YEAR BY EDUCATING GUESTS ON DOMESTIC AND WILD PIG SPECIES

CONTACT: L.A. Zoo Press

January 29, 2019

Vietnamese Pot-Bellied Pig
Photo by Jamie Pham

The Los Angeles Zoo is excited to celebrate 2019’s Lunar New Year, which kicks off Tuesday, Feb. 5, by encouraging guests to come learn about several different species of pigs native to countries around the world. Guests can enjoy the unique experience of getting up close to a brand new companion pair of Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs at the Winnick Family Children’s Zoo and observe several other rare and endangered species of pig like the red river hogs, babirusas, and the Visayan warty pigs.

“We’re proud to have both domestic and wild species of pigs in our Zoo collection because it’s important to create an understanding of the role that all pig species play in our homes and in the ecosystem,” said Alisa Behar, curator of mammals at the Los Angeles Zoo. “Pigs are very intelligent and social animals, much like humans. I’ve also heard that a pig’s chubby face is a sign of good fortune in the Chinese Zodiac, and our pot-bellied pigs definitely have the faces of good fortune.”

New to the Winnick Family Children’s Zoo, a pair of Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs named Petunia and Pua can now be seen getting to know their new space. Arriving for public viewing just last month, Petunia and Pua weigh in at around 151 and 121 pounds, respectively, and are on their way to becoming future ambassador animals for the Zoo. They are considered to be smarter than dogs, and while they may have poor eyesight, they do have great senses of smell and hearing. Guests can visit Petunia and Pua daily from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. – 4 p.m., weather permitting.

The babirusa, which translates to “pig deer,” is one of the most unusual looking animals in the Zoo’s collection. Native to swamps in the rain forests of Indonesia—specifically the Indonesian islands of Sulawesi, Togian, Sula, and Buru, they are found nowhere else in the world. Adult male babirusas have unusual tusks growing through the top of their snout. The tusks are fragile and can be worn down in combat, but they are still sharp enough to pierce another animal’s skull. Female babriusas can have smaller tusks or even no tusks at all. Babirusas have slender snouts and thick, wrinkled gray-brown skin that is sparsely covered in bristly hair. Like most pig species, babirusas are omnivores and are not picky at all when it comes to their diet of fruits, berries, nuts, and insect larvae. The babirusa population in the wild is considered “vulnerable” due to hunting and habitat destruction.

Visayan warty pigs are found on two islands in the central Philippines, and the L.A. Zoo is proud to educate guests on this critically endangered wild pig, which is vanishing due to habitat destruction, population fragmentation, and hunting by locals.  Domestic pig populations also pose a threat due to interspecies breeding with the Visayan warty pig, which creates a hybrid species. Currently the Los Angeles Zoo is participating in an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP) program to help increase the number of Visayan warty pig populations while also creating an insurance population. This species is small in size; they stand at about 2½ to 3 feet tall with the males typically being larger than the female. The males possess large canines that protrude from their mouth like tusks, and they have a prominent line of white fur across the snout that extends along the sides of the jaw. The pig’s long snout helps them root around in the earth for their favorite diet, which includes fruits, roots, fungi, nuts, and small invertebrates.

Found across west and central Africa, the red river hog is also known as the “bush pig,” and they are easily identified by their red coat. Red river hogs can grow up to 40 to 50 inches in length and can weigh up to 285 pounds. As a species, this type of pig is extremely social and can live in groups with as many as 20 pigs. Like its pig counterparts, the red river hog is not very picky about its diet and they will consume a variety of roots, fruits, seeds, nuts, and snails.

Guests are encouraged to visit all of the pigs at the L.A. Zoo during Lunar New Year. While the Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs have special viewing hours at the Winnick Family Children’s Zoo, the other pigs can be viewed daily in their habitats throughout the Zoo, weather permitting.

About the Los Angeles Zoo

Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the landmark Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, drawing nearly 1.8 million visitors each year, is home to a diverse collection of 1,400 animals representing 270 different species, 58 of which are endangered. Its lush grounds on 133 acres feature a botanical collection comprising over 800 different plant species with approximately 7,000 individual plants. The Zoo is located in Griffith Park at the junction of the Ventura (134) and Golden State (5) freeways. Admission is $21 for adults and $16 for children ages 2 to 12. The Zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For information, call (323) 644-4200 or visit the L.A. Zoo Web site at www.lazoo.org.