Photo Credit: YANI

Babirusas released from lethal snares


A patrol team discovered 35 lethal poachers` snares encircling a salt-lick where Babirusas gather. They could rescue two Babirusas that were trapped in the snares. The SOS-funded project aims to reduce destructive pressures on the Sulawesi Nantu Forest and prevent the extinction of the Babirusa and Anoas. The Sulawesi Babirusa (Babyrousa celebensis) is a rare, curly-tusked pig endemic to Sulawesi`s rainforests and listed Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Credits : Lynn Clayton

The Babirusa`s tusks, which curve elegantly out over the babirusa’s forehead like a misplaced primeval headdress, have made the species the inspiration of myth and legend for many centuries. Today the Babirusa faces ever intensifying threatened status, due to illegal poaching for its meat, and destruction of its rainforest habitat by logging, slash-and-burn clearance and gold-mining. The Nantu Forest in northern Sulawesi is one of the Babirusa’s last strongholds on the planet: deep in this remote pristine rainforest Babirusa congregate at a natural salt-lick, one of the few places on earth where they can be seen in any numbers, and adult male Babirusas “box”, rearing up on their hind legs in an extraordinary symmetrical dance.

Christmas brings with it additional hazards for the Babirusa and Christmas 2011 was no exception. The Babirusa`s whitish-grey, hairless, hippo-like body weighs up to one hundred kilograms and is particularly sought at this time by poachers. Amongst the gigantic buttress-rooted forest trees of Nantu YANI’s patrols were continuously alert for poachers’ string leg-snares, which brought the Babirusa one step ever-closer to extinction. After patient days of searching and tip-offs from local villagers, they located thirty-five lethal snares encircling the salt-lick. In two of these an adult male babirusa and a small juvenile babirusa were trapped. The patrol team quickly released these, fortunately unharmed. The adult male’s leg bleeded where the snare had bitten into the skin, but at least the leg was not broken. They destroyed the remaining snares.

For the moment the Babirusas of Nantu are again safe. The smell of sulphur drifts across the still salt-lick. An adult male Babirusa, aberrant tusks curving adrift like some bizarre artwork, drinks quietly, feet sunk into the cool mud. But for how long? Head of the Nantu Protection Unit Jemi Komolontang, himself a former poacher, notes “My friend saw three dead Babirusa on sale at our local market of Langowan, North Sulawesi, on Christmas Eve”.

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