Philippe Coudray's illustration of a dev

Devil pig

The devil pig, often erroneously called the "gazeka," is an unknown pig-like animal inhabiting the mountains of the central, Milne Bay and Oro provinces of eastern Papua New Guinea. It’s described as having a 10 foot long, large sloth or pig-like body, long claws which it uses to grab vegetation, thick legs, and a pig-like head with a short trunk similar to a tapir’s. The first written mention of a devil pig was in the late 19th century.

In 1875, German zoologist Dr. Adolf Meyer wrote about a report of an unknown animal encountered by a hunter in the rainforest off the Cendarawasih Bay in West Papua. The witness was hunting wild boars when they saw a very large pig-like animal, nearly six feet in height. That same year, Rev. Samuel Macfarlane and Luigi d'Albertis reported seeing buffalo-like tracks more than 240 kilometres inland along the Fly River. In 1880, William McGregor wrote in a list of Papuan animals “The Wild Dog, the occasional wallaby, a stray tree kangaroo and an enormous long-snouted animal not yet obtained.”

During Captain Charles Monckton’s 1906 expedition to Mt. Albert Edward, two of his party's members, an army private named Ogi and a village constable named Oina, came across two devil pigs after following their tracks. Ogi shot at the two animals, which he found very frightening and strange-looking, but missed. It was unclear what followed, as Ogi was found in a state of shock, but presumably the "devil pigs," as he called them, tried to attack him. He described the animals as being about five feet in length, and more than three feet high. They had a tail like a horse's, with a long, tapir-like snout, cloven feet, and dark skin with light stripes.

In 1920 Charles Monckton returned to New Guinea and a local gave him a very large, circular tusk that appeared to be very old. Scottish geologist Sir George Hector speculated it came from a babirusa, a pig-like animal not known to live in New Guinea, but the nearby island of Sulawesi. Monckton, on the other hand, thought it could have come from a devil pig.

The devil pig may be a surviving Palorchestes, a gigantic tapir-like marsupial that inhabited Australia as recently as the Pleistocene. Since New Guinea at that time was geographically a part of the same landmass, they likely existed there as well. Palorchestes however, lacked cloven hooves and tusks, so the devil-pig may be related to rhinos or boars.