ABOVE: Every evening as the sun sinks behind the Santubong peninsula on the coast near Kuching, the Bearded Pigs at Bako start emerging onto the beach.
As dusk falls the Bako pigs forage along the waters edge for the flotsam and jetsam left by the tide. As the sunlight fades away the beach fiddler crabs emerge from their burrows in the sand and the pigs start chasing the crabs in stop-start-stop dashes along the tide line.
When the sky becomes too dark to chase crabs the the pigs return to the grassy lawns around the Bako HQ buildings where they forage for earthworms and crop the young grass shoots.
The sensitive long whiskers or “beard” of the Bearded Pig allows them to feed in low light conditions on earthworms and other invertebrates that live in leaf litter and topsoil.
A Bearded Pig continues to root for worms during a heavy rainstorm at Bako. In Borneo, during the lean season between fruiting seasons. the fall back food for Bearded Pigs Sus barbatus is earth worms. In wet rainforest the long sensitive whiskers of Bearded Pigs Sus barbatus allows Bearded Pigs to out compete the European wild boar Sus scrofa for worms. In both Sumatra and the Malay Peninsular both species co-occur but the Bearded Pig is slowly disappearing as Sus scrofa takes over. In Borneo there is no competition from Sus scrofa and Sus barbatus is still common.
This Bearded Pig is foraging underneath a common small coastal tree known as Pong Pong Cerbera odollum. The fibrous fruits the size of a large orange are a common drift seed on the beaches of SE Asia. They are too poisonous to be eaten by Bearded Pigs.
This pig is actually rooting for worms . Worms are easiest to find in very wet conditions with lots of leaf litter so Borneo’s very wet rain forests are the ideal preferred habitat for Bearded Pigs.
The fecal pellets of a Bearded Pig are made up of tiny fragments. Sun Bear expert Wong Siew Te who studied both Bearded Pigs and Sun Bears at Danum Valley found that whilst Sun Bears were excellent dispersers of large seeds Bearded Pigs destroyed nearly all the seeds they ate except for tiny fig seeds and a few small cucumber seeds.
SEED DISPERSAL: Bearded Pigs appear to avoid the toxic seeds of most primate and hornbill dispersed fruit that fall to the forest floor after defecation by hornbills and primates. Instead these toxic seeds are targeted by specialist seed predators, , porcupines and Argus Pheasants and some rats that have digestive systems able to handle the poisons in the seeds. Malay Civets