FLUSHING — Visitors to The Queens Zoo will be able to go "hog wild" for a trio of Chacoan peccaries – a rare and endangered pig that calls a remote dry forest in South America its home.
Nicknamed “pigs from green hell” because of their impenetrable habitat, the species was not even known to exist till a few decades ago, according to the zoo. The pigs, named Walker, Palito and Chili, will take up residence on the zoo’s Wild Side, near other animals native to South America.
“It is very exciting to announce the arrival of these amazing and rare animals," said Scott Silver, Director of the Queens Zoo.
The peccaries, which look like large pigs, each weigh roughly 60 pounds and have a grayish-brown coat interspersed with long coarse hairs.
First described from the fossil record, Chacoan peccaries were thought to be an extinct species of peccary until they were discovered in the Chaco region of South America in the 1970s.
Hunting in Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina has slashed the native peccary population to 3,000, prompting the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to put them on the "endangered list."
At the zoo, Walker and his buddies will chow down fresh fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots, and kale.
But there is no such thing as a free lunch, even for the peccaries. The hogs will have to work for their food and hunt for it in their enclosure after the zoo keepers drop it off.
The Queens Zoo hopes the new home and foraging will keep Walker and Co. healthy and happy – just in time to welcome the summer crowds.