Family Travel 2012

Nichole Livengood



Babirusas settle in together in exhibit at Riverbanks Zoo

Posted 10/1/2012 12:41:00 PM

Romance is blooming in the early autumn heat at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia. Just next door to the African Bird Yard, two Indonesian babirusas are getting cozy into their new life together.

In February, Wilma, a 2½ year old Indonesian babirusa, came to Riverbanks from the St. Louis Zoo. After six months of adjusting to her new home she is now ready to join the zoo’s male babirusa in the exhibit. Bertollo, her male counterpart, came to Riverbanks Zoo in February 2011. The zoo found his mate based on the breeding recommendations of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Babirusa Species Survival Plan, and over a period of months Wilma and Bert were introduced to each other slowly.

Apparently during their first introduction, the two were cautious. Now the zoo reports they are regular pals nuzzling, napping together and chasing each other around. Are babies in the future for these two? The zoo staff is hoping.

The babirusa is a member of the pig family, the name coming from a Malaysian term meaning deer-pig. The babirusa is a member of the pig family. The practically hairless, wrinkly skinned animals have long legs to allow them to run extremely fast. The male is distinguished by long protruding tusks. Though they don’t look like it, these animals are quite good swimmers, making their homes along the shores of rivers and lakes, and in the damp cover of the tropical forest. Their numbers are continually shrinking because of over-hunting and the destruction of their natural habitat.

“This is a very unique species in both appearance and behavior that I know will be a favorite among zoo visitors,” said John Davis, the Curator of Mammals at Riverbanks Zoo.

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is open daily, year round from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Admission is $11.75 for adults, $9.25 for children ages 3 – 12 and free for children 2 and younger. Group rates and other discounts may apply. Year-round membership packages are available. For more information, call Riverbanks at (803) 779-8717 or visit You can keep up with zoo news, updates and special events on facebook.