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Java and Meru

Java (left) engages Meru in a play-fighting session.

Java, our two-year-old north Sulawesi babirusa, was introduced to dad Meru for the first time this week. Java previously shared space with his mom, Piggy, but he was approaching sexual maturity and had to move out.

Though typically solitary in their natural range (outside of breeding and raising young), adult babirusas can be housed together in human care if the “chemistry” is right. Male pairs can be especially tricky.

The introduction began with a “howdy” session, where animals can see and smell each other but are still separated by a physical barrier. Depending on the species and individuals involved, this process can take hours, days or weeks.

“We weren’t sure how long it would take for Java and Meru to acclimate to each other or if it could happen at all,” said Lauren Hinson, curator of animals. “Meru was instantly enamored with Java and we removed the barrier after two minutes.”

The rest is history. In their short time together, the pair have already been observed sniffing, grooming and “cuddling” with one another. While play-fighting, Java emits high-pitched squeals to counter Meru’s guttural grunts.

Although it’s all fun and games for now, the dynamic could shift in the coming months.

“Animals change, especially as they age,” added Hinson. “But for now, we’re pleased to see Java and Meru getting along so well, and we’ll continue to keep a close eye on their relationship.”