Protecting Indonesia's "Kosher Pig"

The babirusa may be a "kosher pig," but breeding them for food would be bad for the species.

kosher pig - babirusa illustration

The babirusa isn't a ruminant, but thanks to cloven hooves it's called the "kosher pig."

Illustration by Fotolia/Morphart

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Late last year the media had fun with an Agency for International Development report that suggested scientists may have found a pig whose meat could be kosher. According to reports, this discovery might lead to an important new food source — particularly for Jews and Muslims, who do not eat pork because "regular" pigs aren't ruminants. (Porkers lack a second stomach, and therefore don't have cud to chew. However, they do fulfill another kosher requirement: They have cloven hooves.)

But hold on! Into the picture steps a California biologist who spent years studying the "kosher pig," babirusa (or pig deer), in the jungles of Indonesia. "Kosher or not," said Victoria Joan Selmier, "the babirusa is an endangered species." Selmier's research has indicated that there are fewer than 1,000 of the animals on the planet and that their critical habitat is already threatened. The capture of enough of them to begin a commercial breeding colony might well spell the end of the wild population.