DISTRIBUTION OF INTERSEXES
Intersex pigs are woven into the very fabric of Ni-Vanuatu culture. From the earliest accounts, (Coderington(15), Rivers(16), Baker(4), and Marshall(10) Intersexes appear to have been very numerous on many of the populated northern-most islands of Vanuatu. Two anthropologists, Coderington in 1891, and Rivers in 1914 made short references to intersex pigs while studying the diverse cultures of the New Hebrides . The first and only references to these intersex or integrade pigs were by Baker in 1925(17) and 1928(4) where he stated "on arrival in the northerly islands of this group, there were intersex pigs in every village of Espiritu Santo and Gaua". He continued, "little did anyone think that hidden away in a small group of islands in the Pacific were thousands of Intersexes" (although he only documented 91 in his findings).
Because of the difficulties in communication, and the remoteness of many villages, this report is by no means an absolute description of the distribution of population, domestic or wild, of these animals. It can probably be assumed that there are at least some intersex pigs in the approximate areas of their domesticated cousins as today's island pig management accounts for many cases of "escapees". I will begin with the original references and systematically account for their current distribution. The Intersexes referred to by Coderington(15) 1891 and Rivers(16) 1914 were merely references and mentioned only their cultural significance to the early "Tribesman" of the New Hebrides.
The "extreme abundance" of Naravé on the Sakau Peninsula (Baker(14))seems to have been drastically reduced to a point where the Author was unable to verify any accounts of Intersexual pig ownership in this area. There are still Naravé pigs kept on Gaua today, but not nearly in the numbers that were represented in "better times". Also in the northern Banks, Merelava accounts for two intersex pigs. There is an account of one intersex on the Island of Tongoa. Baker(4) also stated that on Efate and Malakula the intersexes did not occur. I was able to find accounts of the pigs on both of these islands. As recently as 1992 one was killed in South Malakula in an area where it had no ceremonial significance. Keeping Naravé pigs in northern Malakula, however, must have played a significant role in the early peoples' lives as was evident when a prominent Vao villager took me on a two hour walk into the bush, to a "Long forgotten" sacred "Taboo" place. Here he showed a lifesize, hand-crafted stone pig, with tusks. He related to me that this pig had been carved by his ancestors "many, many years before". Upon even closer examination I was excited to find out that this pig was indeed a hermaphrodite. This was to be my first introduction to tangible evidence of the existence of these unique aberrations.
I have recorded accounts of intersexual pigs still being kept for "custom" purposes (i.e. Nimangki ceremony) in the village of Patani on the nearly inaccessible northwest coast of Santo. These pigs are still evident on Ambae in the Northeast corner of the island, as is the case on Malo in its Northeast villages. These pigs are still plentiful by today's standards but not nearly as numerous as witnessed by Baker in 1925. On Malo alone in the area of Avunatari, 30 intersexes were examined. Villagers implied that there were additional animals in some of the adjacent bush villages. In the past 100 years there has been a great reduction in the number of intrsexual pigs on the Islands of Vanuatu. Two factors contributed directly to this reduction of these integrade pigs: massive human depopulation of the islands, through Blackbirding (a form of "labor recruitment" practiced here from 1803-1913), and disease brought by sandalwood traders and missionaries. Both factors were "coincidental" with a gradual diminishing practice of "custom ways" as is prevalent with many of the world's indigenous peoples. The progression of these and other environmental influences reduced the native population by almost 90% by 1935. White man's invasion and the strong arm of the missionaries insidious influence, which resulted in the loss of "old ways", began to undermine the very culture it came to save. By 1937 Marshall(10) stated "many other customs have been lost or seriously modified through the often brutal influence of white man's civilization .... while the people have lost a score of their important customs, they have grimly and tenaciously retained the culture of he pig". Today, only the elders maintain the practice of "Nimangki" and reverence of the Naravé pig. Along with this fading of tradition comes the influence of capitalism, the pig jaws with circular tusks that were once hung proudly on the "Big Man's" Nakamal(the name for the men's meeting place), now find themselves in downtown markets and jewelry stores for sale to tourists for hefty prices. It may then be a natural fact that when these proud men have gone "on top"(a place high in the mountains where one's spirit goes after death), the Naravé pig and its secrets will slip irrevocably into oblivion.
From personal interviews and past references(13), I was able to generalize that the
Falé-Ravé (local term for a normal female pig known to have produced intersex offspring)
will first farrow at approximately 1-1/2 years of age, and continue to be productive for
14 years, farrowing every 12-18 months (I'll use 15). Considering the average litter to be
4-6 (I'll use 5), birthing 12 times in her lifetime she will have produced approximately
60 piglets (50% male, 50% female). Of the expected 30 males born, each Falé-ravé is said
to produce at least one Intersex in every farrow or approximately 20% of the offspring she
produces(figures gathered from local lore). It is important to note that this only takes
into account the small percentage of the population who are, in fact, "intersex
producers" and not 20% of all males born to the entire population as Baker's figures
represent. Nonetheless, this conservative estimation is still very impressive as the
abundance of these intersexes is equaled nowhere in the world.