Tag Archives: Warthog

Wildlife: Warthogs (Phacochoerus africanus)

Warthogs are one of at least four unique species in the pig family (Suidae) native to Africa. Other natives include the wild boar (Sus scrofa) in northern Africa, bushpig (Potamochoerus larvatus) in east Africa and southern Africa, and giant forest hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni) in isolated areas of central Africa. Species of warthog occur throughout parts of central Africa as well as the equatorial regions towards southern Africa and the eastern parts of southern Africa.

Conservation Status & Threats

Warthogs, African bushpigs, and Red River Hogs are threatened by hunting and poaching for their meat, but occur in large enough populations that they are not significantly threatened as species. At regional levels Warthogs are believed to have gone locally extinct in some West and North African states.

The canine teeth of Common Warthogs develop into tusks made from the same material as teeth in other animals, including Elephants. Like the ivory taken from African and Asian Elephant species, a Warthog’s ivory tusks have been carved and used in decorative and ceremonial applications. Due to the healthy status of many Warthog populations there may not be a prohibition on the domestic or international trade of their ivory, however the illicit way their tusks are acquired makes possession and trade problematic.

Warthogs in South Africa.

Relatives & Identification

Warthogs: Up to 63-85 cm (2-3 feet) at the shoulder. Males can weigh 60 to 150 kg (130 to 330 lb) while females are notably smaller at 45 to 75 kg (100 to 165 lb). Total body length 110-180cm (3.6-6 feet).

Males have two pairs of tusks: one pair on the upper part of their mouth and a second, smaller pair on the jaw fitting. With their mouth closed they fit closely together. Females have only a pair of upper tusks which can reach as much as 15.2-25.5 cm (6.0-10.0 inches) in length. The tusks of males can be even larger with one record-setting male possessing tusks 63.5 cm (25.0 inches) in length. Despite popular belief the tusks do not become “razor sharp” from normal use, but are still considerably dangerous.

Warthog Distribution: Increasingly diminishing distribution throughout South Africa. Large distribution throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.

Bushpigs: Up to 66 to 100 cm (26 to 39 in) at the shoulder, and weigh from 55 to 150 kg (121 to 331 lb). Total body length 130-170cm (3.6-6 feet).

Bushpig Distribution: Predominantly northeastern parts of Southern Africa and reaching into southern East Africa.

The giant forest hog, which currently has a scattered distribution in tropical parts of West and Central Africa, can weigh as much as 275 kg (606 lb). All species in the Suidae family native to Africa are capable swimmers in spite of their size.

Habitat & Behavior

Warthogs live in a male-dominant hierarchical structure typically based on age, which also correlates to size. However males are typically solitary even when steward of one or more females and offspring which form a group called a sounder. Depending on the quality of their habitat and success of the male in acquiring females, it may keep more than one sounder. Multiple sounders and bachelor males of related individuals form a clan and may occupy a specific range for generations.

Adolescent and adult males do not form a permanent part of this group but during mating seasons will move among sounders for receptive females. Unsuccessful or immature bachelor males may live alone or form small bachelor herds.

Warthogs are commonly diurnal, meaning that they are active during the day and sleep at night, but some populations may be primarily nocturnal especially where human-wildlife conflict exists. They require water and prefer to live in savanna, grasslands, and lightly wooded areas, but will expand into less forgiving environments with a satisfactory supply of water. Similar to Savanna Elephants and White Rhino and Black Rhino, warthogs enjoy wallowing in mud.

Warthogs kneeling to eat short grasses. RHA

Warthogs are among the only herbivores known to kneel on their forelimbs to eat at short grasses or drink water. While leaning down they are also able to make use of their tusks to pull up roots and succulent grasses. Their tusks are also defensive tools and with head held down point forwards during a charge.

Warthogs can run at up to 55 kph (34 mph), allowing them the speed to escape many ambush predators. Typically the warthog’s fight-or-flight response leading into a charge is a retreat away from a threat, however their size, speed, and determination to get out of danger makes Warthogs a clear threat to anything standing in their path. For this reason animals and especially humans on foot must be careful when walking in areas where warthogs are potentially present as scaring them can result in an inadvertent charge.

When panicked or stressed the long hairs running along the front-half of their back will stand on end. Unlike the African Bushpig, Warthogs have muscles near their tail which draw taught when running and helps hold the tail erect. This is thought to act as a signal to other warthogs who may follow a lead warthog to safety. The raised tail has also been associated with helping young to follow their mother through high grass, though this behavior and many other aspects of Warthogs is not yet fully understood.

Adult males are capable of digging their own burrow, but may take over those made by Porcupines or Aardvarks. If abandoned by the warthog these burrows are very important for other animals able to survive only because of the protective shelters made by other species.

A sounder of Warthogs grazing in South Africa. RHA.

Reproduction & Lifespan

Warthogs keep multiple burrows, or dens, within their home range so that there is always a safe place to sleep or to raise young. These burrows are often in enormous termite mounds that can be 2-3.5 meters high and go deep underground. These locations are thought to often be partially excavated by Aardvarks that feed on the termites, leaving  a nice area to make a den for the warthogs.

Unlike Bushpig piglets which have stripes, likely to camouflage them from the eyes of predators, Warthog piglets must rely solely on its mother and burrow for protection. Warthog sows give birth away from the male and will leave the burrow with their mother after 50 days. Unlike most hoofed animals, such as impala and gazelle, warthogs commonly give birth to multiple young in a single litter. The gestation period is approximately 170 days and litter sizes are typically 2-3, but a litter with as many as 8 piglets has been recorded. It takes roughly 21 weeks to completely wean the piglets and they will become a part of the sounder until sexual maturity is reached by 18-20 months of age.

Males typically leave their mother at 15 months old, but will still be three months shy of sexual maturity and about three years away from mating. Adult males engage in fights with other males, possibly over mates or resources, but are not known to be territorial or to fight over a specific range or den. The fights involve sidling up to one another and bashing their head sideways, taking out of play the ends of the tusks and reducing dramatic injuries.

Warthogs can live for more than a decade in the wild, with some examples living for as long as 17 years. In captivity a 17-18 year lifespan is possible.

Sources:

  • “The Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals” by Richard D. Estes
  • “Walker’s Mammals of the World” by Ronald M. Nowak
  • “Stuarts’ Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa” by Chris & Mathilde Stuart

Safari in Kruger National Park (Part 1)

This is the first of two parts in my Safari in Kruger National Park. You can browse Part 2 here.

Kruger National Park is known for its incredible diversity in plants, animals, and clearly defined habitats. It is home to more than 500-species of birds year-round, with more during seasons of migration or wintering. All of the species in the Big Five are also represented in the 19,633 km2 (7,580 mi2) park: lion, elephant, multiple species of rhinoceros, leopard, and African buffalo. Additionally, other fun animals like hippopotamus, baboon, and many species of antelope are a common site.

For more information on Kruger National Park I encourage people interested in birding, safaris, multi-week getaways, and general tourism to view the South Africa National Parks (SAN Parks) website and to consider visiting or donating to this magnificent place.

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Above: Female impalas crossing the road. These are likely the most common mammal in South Africa.

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Above: Another view of the group of female impala. There is a bachelor male in the background hanging out and hoping to impress the females …

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Above: Another view of the group of female impala (they have no horns, whereas males do).

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Above: A lone ‘blue wildebeest.’ Wildebeest are quite common in Tanzania’s Serengeti where there is a great migration of migratory wildebeest populations. They can run up to 80 km per hour (50 mph) and weigh 120–270 kg (260–600 lbs).

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Above: A group of warthogs. They eat roots, fungus, and other things. They will get down on their front knees when eating.

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Above: These are one of four species of swine or pigs native to Africa. Warthogs can grow to be 45-150kgs (100-330lbs) and have a top speed of 55 km per hour (34mph). Bushpigs can grow to be a similar size, however the Giant Forest Hog can weigh 275 kgs (605 lbs).

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Above: Female in the distance (brown, left of center) and male (black, right of center) Ostrich. The female has its head down to the ground probably pecking at something. Contrary to popular myth, they do not bury their heads when in danger.

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Above: Another shot of the ostriches. They can’t fly, but they can run up to 70 km per hour (43 mph) and have a deadly kick. They also taste delicious.

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Above: In the distance there are two antelope: one impala and one that might be a waterbuck. See if you can spot them!

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Above: A group of Ellipsen Waterbuck hanging out by the drying-up river as viewed from the opposite bank. We’ll see more of these later and up-close.

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Above: A view of one small part of just one of the biomes, or habitats, in Kruger National Park.

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Above: Part of a group of Plains Zebra (or Common Zebra) grazing in an area that has recently undergone a controlled burn to help new types of flora (plants) grow or to prevent the risk of a wildfire later in the dry season.

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Above: More zebra in the same area, probably in the same group as the previous photo’s zebra.

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Above: There are several different species of zebra, some seem to be more closely related to horses while others are more closely related to donkeys. These are probably the variety closely related to donkeys.

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Above: Not sure, but this may be a Brown Snake Eagle. Guess what it’s known for eating?

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Above: Another view of what is probably a Brown Snake Eagle. There are many eagles in Africa: some are known for preying on snakes, others for preying on fish. The African Fish Eagle (or African Sea Eagle) slightly resembles the North American Bald Eagle, but is a separate species.

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Above: A view of a female Steenbok (or Steinbok), a type of the more than 60 antelope native to Africa, hiding by a bush. Very rare to see, even more rare to see it away from its mate or family. Steenbok are quite small antelope, though far from the smallest, at up to 60cm tall (24 inches).

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Above: Another view of a female Steenbok (or Steinbok). Very rare to see, even more rare to see it away from its mate.

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Above: A small group of female impala providing good examples of various daily activities like eating, pooping, cleaning the tail, and the one furthest away on the left is keeping an eye out for predators.

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Above: More impala. These guys are everywhere.

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Above: As we drove past a small lake we suddenly had Elephants crossing the road to get to their family and matriarch.

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Above: Elephants crossing the road to get to their family and matriarch.

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Above: And on the left: the main family group. I believe there are six (6) elephants in this photo, the young are being surrounded in a shield-wall type defensive formation.

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Above: Elephant family. I believe there are eight (8) elephants in this photo, with two in the distance behind the tree. Young elephants are the only elephants truly at-risk of being attacked by a predator. Historically, adult elephants are both too large and too powerful for anyone but humans to kill.

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Above: A jumping female Greater Kudu (or just ‘Kudu’), another type of antelope. We must have scared this one as we drove up to it and its mate (not pictured).

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Above: Three vultures hanging out in a tree. They play a very important role in the ecosystem by eating animal carcasses which prevent dead animal meat from rotting and creating disease. It’s said that vulture species specializes in eating a particular part of a dead animal.

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Above: A giraffe! This is most likely one of the rarer ‘South African giraffe’ species based on the pattern of its coat and darker coloration.

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Above: The ‘Secretary Bird‘ (or Secretarybird) spends most of its time on the ground walking around, but will fly into a tree at night to rest. This birds tend to hunt on foot for small lizards, snakes, and mammals.

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Above: Another view of the same two birds. Take a look at the Secretary Bird page on Wikipedia for up-close photos.

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Above: A lion! This is a male lion resting in the shade until sunset when the hunt begins. Unseen in this photo are the three female lions that hunt for him and are resting beside him. Sometimes this is as good as it gets to spotting a lion (if you see one at all). Because all the animals are wild and free to roam around there are not often great photo opportunities like one might see on wildlife TV shows or magazines. However there are plenty of opportunities to see them up-close at rehabilitation centers. I’ll spot some more lions up-close and in the wild in Part 2 of this series.

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Above: Ellipsen Waterbuck are one of more than 60 species of antelope native to Africa. There is a male on the right, with two (probable) females on the left.

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Above: Another angle showing an additional waterbuck. Note the distinctive white bullseye or “toilet bowl” on their rear.

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Above: Another E. Waterbuck partially obscured by a bush. They blend into the environment of the bushveld, a term used by some South Africans to describe sub-tropical woodland, quite well.

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Above: Ellipsen Waterbuck female with two young. The female is sticking its tongue out.

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Above: A male elephant is called a “bull.” This one is calmly eating some sort of long grass. During musth (or must) male elephants go through a period of sexual arousal. They also become uncharacteristically aggressive towards predators and other threats, including humans, during this time.

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Above: The same elephant bull (#1). Males typically live on their own, while females and young live together until the young males are old enough to go off on their own. Adult elephant bulls can weigh 5,900-7,000 kgs (13,000-15,000 lbs).

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Above: Elephant Bull #2 moving his ears to make himself look even larger. This is a part of a defense mechanism to scare animals off and keep us from getting too close.

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Above: Two more ‘plains zebra’ at the end of the trip. Zebras can be quite social and have a distinct “bark” to communicate.

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Above: Zebras have unique stripes, but more recent scientific study has concluded that zebras are black animals with white stripes, not the other way around.

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Please view the final part of this trip here: Safari in Kruger National Park (Part 2). Videos from this safari will be added to this site at a later date.

Thank you.

Sources:

“The Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals” by Richard D. Estes (Copyright 1993 by Chelsea Green Publishing Co.)

“Walker’s Carnivores of the World” by Ronald M. Nowak (Copyright 1999 by The Johns Hopkins University Press)