Power to the Pumba!

By: Caroline Edmonds

It would seem that 2020 was the year of ‘liberation for wild pigs’ the world over.

During lockdown, wild boars roamed the city streets of Sardinia, Israel, Italy and Turkey. The newspapers ran novel stories with photos of the hairy pigs and their little ones nibbling along the sidewalks outside closed restaurants and banks.

Photo source: Reuters

At the sanctuary, we had our own version of wild pig invasion – the warthogs pulled in!

Our sanctuary staff live at Tau camp surrounded by electric fencing to protect the inhabitants and the dogs that reside there (meet the dogs that live next door to lions). Since no volunteers have been able to come to the sanctuary, it has been very quiet in camp. This seems to have emboldened the numerous families of warthogs who have virtually taken up residence along the fence line and even within the borders of Tau camp. The little ones simply go under the fence while mum and dad push through, ignoring the shock. Once in, they happily munch grass and tree roots all day long. Guido the German Pointer couldn’t seem to successfully scare them off with his barking, and Kimberley the company dog was even spotted playing with them! However, that ended badly the other day when mum got worried for the safety of the little ones and turned on Kimberley, giving her a serious head butt. Kimberley took a cut to her leg; stitches and a big vet bill followed! We are pleased to say she has fully recovered, but now gives the warthogs the respect they deserve. The other downside of a warthog family in your garden is the damage they do to the trees. They love certain trees and feasted themselves so much on the roots that we have had a number trees fall down. In the end we were forced to banish them and beefed up the fencing by adding more strands. We are pleased to say that they didn’t take umbrage and are still regularly seen around the camp.

One particular warthog family has proven special regulars – a mum and her three piglets who I have named Wilma, and her little ones Bam-Bam, Pebbles and Dino (all named after the Flintstone family). Fred hasn’t been spotted yet. The most fun part of the visit is that Guido has now learnt to recognize them as “piggies”, and at any given time you can say “Piggies! Piggies!” and he will just about fall over himself to get to the fence line to investigate.

The last year may have been lonely and full of challenges, but it has opened space to observe the beauty of the quiet, simple lives of the animals all around us.