The warthog (Phacochoerus africanus).

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Known for a distinct lack of beauty and its pennant tail, the warthog is unmistakable. They are remarkable for their strength, intelligence, and flexibility! Its name refers to the warts carried by the boar, while the Afrikaans name “vlakvark” refers to the animal’s habit of roaming plains along watercourses and marshlands. The warthog has an exceptionally high breeding rate that allows it to invade marginal and degraded habitats. Unlike many of their African counterparts, they are not endangered because they are so skilled at adapting to new threats. For example, most warthogs like to forage during the light of the morning and early evening. But if they live in an area where they are hunted by people, they switch to foraging at night. It also contributes to the destruction of veld condition and damages fences by burrowing underneath to open escape pathways that are also used by game animals and domestic small stock.

Warthogs are not very picky about their homes, either. Instead of digging their own burrows, they find abandoned aardvark holes or natural burrows for homes to raise their young, sleep, and hide from predators. They usually back into their burrows, so they can use their sharp tusks to scare off any animal that bothers them. The burrows also protect them from temperature extremes. Underground, the temperature is always comfortable, even if aboveground it’s extremely hot at high noon or freezing in the middle of the night.

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Habitat requirement

Warthogs are generally associated with sub-tropical, open, degraded grassland plains, flood plains, marshland areas and, more particularly, the ring-zone surrounding waterholes. They are also found in open savanna woodland and sparse shrubland, the new grass growth in burnt veld being a particular attraction. Shortgrass habitats with grasses of less than 15 cm that are associated with sweetveld habitat are preferred. A sourveld habitat is unsuitable. Warthog are fond of mud baths and prefer to be close to water sources. Thick bush, riverine thickets, forests and arid desert environments are avoided. Sub-arid environments are only suitable for the desert warthog and, even then, only marginally so. Warthog die easily during prolonged droughts due to the decline in the nutrient quality of dietary fodder.

Feeding & Nutrition

Warthogs are omnivorous, feeding on vegetation, insects, maggots, rodents, bird nestlings, eggs and snakes. They also scavenge carcasses and bones. The greatest portion of the diet consists of sweet grasses and forb roots rather than the vegetative material found above-ground. Warthog kneel and dig out roots to a depth of 15 cm with their tusks and muscular snouts. This destructive behaviour results in the warthog being a high-impact species. Other food types include water sedges, dwarf shrubs, fruits, berries, soil and dung from other herbivorous animals. Wetland grasses are highly favoured. Warthog are highly selective feeders of both plant species and parts and require a diversity of grasses and forbs. Feeding exclusively takes place during daylight hours. At night they sleep in old burrows of the aardvark Orycteropus afer, and the porcupine Hystrix africanus.

Social structure

Pairs of warthog are solitary but temporary aggregations occur when 4-5 families meet to feed at the same site. Neighbouring families with overlapping home ranges are not aggressive but at dusk each family returns to its own den. Families consist of an adult boar, an adult sow and her offspring of the current season and sometimes those from the previous season. Piglets may stay with the family until an age of 27 months. Adult boars leave the family groups after the mating season and become solitary, occupying their own den but still sharing the same home range. Old post-mature adults of both sexes become solitary and occupy dens on the perimeter of the family home range.

Disease

Warthog are highly susceptible to swine-fever and mange and cannot tolerate malnutrition during droughts. It is the first game species to suffer high mortalities during these periods.

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The Warthog can be found in a number of locations in Africa

***

“Mother Nature is our teacher—reconnecting us with Spirit, waking us up and liberating our hearts. When we can transcend our fear of the creatures of the forest, then we become one with all that is; we enter a unity of existence with our relatives—the animals, the plants and the land that sustains us.”
Sylvia Dolson, Joy of Bears    

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