Panay: paradise in north-west England?


Somewhat colder than the original Panay in the Philippines; this is the Panay at Chester Zoo in the north-west of the England.

I had wanted to visit since I heard about their ‘Islands’ exhibit inspired by islands South-East Asia including Panay. Finally, I had the chance to explore.


Visiting the zoo is like exploring; it feels like there is an element of luck in whether you will see the animals or not. Luckily I spotted what I had come to see and lots more. Top of my list was the Visayan warty pig – one of the rarest pigs on the planet and my very own picture book heroine Mayumi.

dscf8865This was my first face-to-face encounter with a Visayan warty pig: she looked happy chewing on leaves and was totally oblivious of me and everyone else (which is exactly how it should be).


It’s not just the human visitors that get to explore, the animals appeared to have space to explore too.

There are just a few hundred Visayan warty pigs thought to be surviving in the wild; living in fragments of forest on the islands of Panay and Negros. Without intervention it is likely that they would disappear entirely. The conservation work of zoos like Chester Zoo, and the support they give to conservation initiatives in the Philippines, is vitally important.

dscf8878Visayan warty pig – now found only on the islands of Panay and Negros, this critically endangered wildlife pig is perhaps the rarest pigs in the world. Some estimate at there being just 200 individuals left living in the wild

dscf8898Philippine or Visayan spotted deer – endemic to the islands of the central Philippines but now thought to be found only on Panay and Negros

dscf8929Mindanao bleeding heart-dove one of the bleeding-heart doves that are endemic to the Philippines

I also saw but didn’t  photograph: Philippine mouse-deer, Visayan tarictic hornbills, Mindanao hornbill, Palawan peacock pheasant and Northern Luzon cloud rat. The cloud rat proved to be the hardest to see. Being nocturnal, it’s enclosure is darkened and the animals still aren’t very active during the day. I stood watching for ages until I was rewarded with a brief glimpse before it retreated back into its nesting box.

The Philippine species weren’t all in the islands area of the zoo, I had to seek them out and I know I missed some. But there is some much to see. My other highlights were young orangutans playing on a rope swing and rolling down a hill (it looked like loads of fun), the painted dogs, aardvarks fast asleep and dreaming, an aye-aye and the amazing fruit bat cave.

Oh and I should have mentioned I saw one of the Visayan warty pigs have a poo too! It made me happy because pig poo is a very important part of Mayumi’s story.


Pigs that plant trees and make nursery pools for frogs

20150411_154757-1Anyone interested in wild animals will know how important it is to look out for poo! And not just so you don’t step in it.

The presence of poo tells you which animals have been there and, luckily, many animal poos are very distinctive so it’s possible to identify the animal too.

Mayumi’s story also illustrates how important poo and pigs are in the forest ecosystem. Animals like pigs help grow new trees by eating fruits; the seeds pass through them and are deposited away from the parent tree where they can grow into new trees.

But animals roles within in ecosystems can be even more unexpected. A report from the BBC tells of peccaries (wild pigs of central and south America) creating pools that are used by poison dart frogs to raise their young tadpoles:

“Typically, female poison dart (dendrobatid) frogs lay eggs on land. Once the tadpoles hatch, male frogs, their fathers, then carry them to small nursery pools.
But these pools may be short-lived, and the frogs are too tiny to dig their own.
Enter the peccary, a species of wild pig common in Central and South America.
Peccaries like to fling turf, specifically by digging out wallows – their own individual mud spas.
As they do so, they can radically transform the rainforest floor, creating pools of water that are just the right size for prospective frog parents.”

For the full report see: Pigs help frogs have babies