This week, we said goodbye to another longtime Zoo resident, Makina the Visayan warty pig. At 19 years old, she was one of the oldest warty pigs at a facility accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, second to another of our current Zoo residents – her older sister Fancy. Recently, Makina began experiencing serious health issues that made the difficult, but compassionate decision to euthanize her necessary.
Our Zoo is committed to giving our animal residents comprehensive care throughout their lives with us. As an older animal resident, Makina had been given routine quality of life assessments which allow us to assess how an animal is doing by monitoring ongoing health issues, mobility, hygiene and more.
In December, our animal care team found that Makina had a deep corneal ulcer in her left eye. Our veterinary team considered different treatment options, eventually opting to remove that eye. By doing so, Makina was pain free in that area, no longer at risk of severe infection, and not under the stress of more invasive treatments. While Makina recovered, she was treated with antibiotics and pain medication.
Unfortunately, evidence of an ulcer began to show in her right eye. In addition, Makina developed a crack in the bottom of her hoof, a result of swelling caused by her worsening chronic arthritis and bone abnormalities. She started to struggle to put weight on that foot. Both of these conditions had a poor prognosis, so the decision was made to euthanize Makina to prevent future suffering.
Makina came to our Zoo from her birthplace, another AZA-accredited zoo, with her sister Fancy in 2008 to live in our Lands of Change: Australia & Beyond area. The move was a part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for Visayan warty pigs. The goal of an SSP is to maintain genetic diversity of groups of animals in AZA-accredited facilities – and provide a safeguard against the extinction of a species.
Over her lifetime, Makina gave birth to 11 piglets – and actually has two grandpigs now! Every one of those births was so important for this species, which is critically endangered due to habitat loss, human hunting and hybridization with domestic pigs.
On a more personal note, Makina was also known for her impressive hairdo, said Lands of Change area supervisor Kristen Gagnon.
“Her mohawk could grow almost a foot long on the top of her head,” Kristen said. “Guests would often walk by and compliment her style.”
Makina was usually the bolder of the two warty pigs. She was intelligent and very curious and would follow keepers around her habitat, quickly investigating anything they set up for enrichment. Like many pigs, she relied on her nose and loved exploring new scents.
“Sometimes I would dig small holes around the habitat, spraying perfume into each one and covering them back up,” Kristen said. “As I worked my way around the space, she would be right behind me, sniffing out each spot and digging it all up with her nose.”
Makina and Fancy could often be seen resting in the sun together in their habitats. Whenever the weather got cooler, Makina would go into her barn and dig herself a bed in the hay until she was completely covered.
“When keepers would come to check on her in the mornings, sometimes all you could see was the hay breathing,” Kristen said. “She would stick just her nose out of the hay to investigate who was there to see her.”
It’s been a tough few weeks for our Zoo as we’ve said goodbye to several longtime animal residents. It’s important to us to be transparent with you and give you a full look at animal care at the Zoo, which sees the highs of animal births and, inevitably, the lows of animal deaths.
We strive to give our animals as many comfortable years as possible, but this also comes with the responsibility of understanding when our care is no longer serving our animals and the hard, but caring decision to say goodbye must be made. We ask that you keep our staff and volunteers in your thoughts at this time.