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Bush pigs: Rarely seen and little known

Avatar of inke inke - 25. January 2018 - Environment, Discover Namibia

Two bush pigs on a floodplain of the Okavango River in Bwabwata National Park with several hippos in the background.

Dirk Heinrich

When he was a professional hunter in the north-eastern parts of Namibia he often spotted bush pigs in Bwabwata National Park, says Allan Cilliers, a former chief nature conservation official of Etosha National Park. “I encountered this pig species in the middle of dry, densely vegetated areas far away from the rivers. They particularly seemed to enjoy the fresh greenery that emerged after the bush fires”, he recalls. He thinks that he also saw bush pigs in the omuramba (ancient riverbed) in Khaudum National Park during the eighties. Cilliers gave up his professional hunting activities in the Zambezi Region two years ago. He is worried about the bush pigs because in Namibia they may still be hunted. 

Well-known ornithologist and safari guide Steve Braine also worked for the Department of Nature Conservation for many years and was based in the Zambezi Region when it was still called the Caprivi. He says that he has never seen a bush pig anywhere in Namibia. Together with another nature conservation official he once found tracks of bush pigs in a woodland east of Katima Mulilo, which was the closest he ever got to this mammal species. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism has no figures on bush pigs. No pigs were spotted during the game counts in recent years. 

According to Maxi Louis, the Director of the Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organisations (NACSO), twelve bush pigs were spotted in the Bamunu Conservancy Swamps during last year’s game counts in the communal conservancy areas in the north-eastern parts of the country. Since bush pigs are predominantly nocturnal they are rarely seen during game counts. In July this year, however, three bush pigs were observed late in the morning on the Okavango floodplains in the buffalo conservation area of Bwabwata National Park.  

For a long time bush pigs and red river hogs were thought to be one species. Now the African members of the pig family have been divided into three subspecies. Apart from the isolated groups of Potamochoerus larvatus koiropotamus, the Southern bush pig, which occur in Angola this subspecies is also found in Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Botswana, Swaziland, a small part of South Africa and in the Kavango East and the Zambezi regions of Namibia. Southern bush pigs weigh between 50 and 115 kg and grow to a length of 1.0-1.5 metres. Woodlands, bush areas with plenty of vegetation and densely grown riverbanks are their preferred habitats. They are omnivores that feed on leaves, roots, tubers, fruit, insect larva, bird’s eggs and fledglings, small mammals as well as carrion. They dig up the ground with their tough snouts and thanks to their excellent sense of smell sniff out even the smallest meal.   

Bush pigs have characteristic long reddish hair, which is rather unusual for pigs. They are agile and swift-footed as well as good swimmers. Their main predator is the leopard but they also have to be aware of lions, spotted hyenas and wild dogs. 

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1 comments

David jackson

25. January 2018

These pigs are common in Zimbabwe. They are and have always been the bane of farmers. They are notorious for raiding and destroying crops mostly at night to the extent that guards were posted every night to guard the mielie fields from bushpigs.


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