CONSERVATIONISTS are celebrating after the birth of a critically endangered warty pig at Chester Zoo.
Only 200 Visayan warty pigs are thought to be left in their native habitat in the Philippines, making them the rarest of all wild pigs.
Chester Zoo was the first in the UK to welcome Visayan warty pigs, a species that gets its name from three pairs of fleshy warts on the boar's face. The warts protect them from rival pigs' tusks during a fight.
The sex of the zoo’s latest youngster – which was born to mum Viv and dad Sid - is still unknown.
It currently sports yellow and brown stripes which act as camouflage but these will eventually disappear at around nine to 12 months.
The decline of the species – almost to the point of extinction – is blamed on habitat loss and hunting.
Keeper Lucy Edwards said: “Visayan warty pigs are critically endangered and face an extremely high risk of becoming extinct in the wild.
“They’ve suffered a drastic population crash in recent times with widespread commercial logging, illegal logging and agricultural expansion devastating vast amounts of their natural habitat. They’re also being over-hunted and their meat can often command at least double the price of domestic pork in local markets and some restaurants.
“It really is a battle against time to save them.”
Lucy added: “Given that warty pigs have a spiky, almost mohawk-like hair style on their heads, mum Viv and dad Sid were named after punk rockers – Vivienne Westwood and Sid Vicious.
"Once we discover the gender of our new little addition I’m sure we’ll be giving him or her a name to follow in that tradition.”
Next spring the zoo’s new Islands development – a £30m expansion which aims to showcase its conservation work in South East Asia – will open.
Islands will feature mini-replicas of several islands including the Philippines and aims to further champion the plight of species such as the Visayan warty pig.
The zoo provides financial assistance for an education and breeding programme in the Philippines and is also working with other European zoos to ensure the survival of the pigs.