"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa
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Friday, March 28, 2014

The Africa Journals, Ch. 28, Piglets in the Mist





The Africa Journals

 Chapter 28
Piglets in the Mist


The warthog is a hindgut digester, meaning most of its digestion occurs in the intestines and cecum.  Because it grazes close to the ground, it sometimes ingests foreign objects like pebbles and stones and flints.  When the warthog defecates, the stones can strike the flints and ignite methane gas in the dung, which then burns the hair off the warthog’s tail.   That is why the warthog has only a tuft of hair on its tail and why it runs with its tail sticking straight up.—Brian the Tour Guide   (Really.)


Suckered us in, he did, with that tail tale.  
A soft rainy mist enfolds Chobe Safari Lodge as I sit on my balcony this afternoon.  Below me on the green lawn, four warthog piglets scuffle and play as their mother grazes on the short grass.   Warthogs will never win any beauty contests, hence their prominent place on the list of Africa’s Ugly Five, where it joins the wildebeest (gnu), vulture, Maribou stork, and hyena. 








But the warthog, a member of the pig family, is indeed a hindgut digester and there is little hair on its body, just bristles here and there and a mane on its back.   And there is that tuft on its tail.  But the flint thing?   Don't think so.

I think the warthogs are kind of cute, despite how ugly they are.   They stand about 30 inches at the shoulder, are three to four feet long, and weigh anywhere from 120 to 250 lbs, with the males heavier than females.  They are omnivorous, eating mostly grass, berries, and roots, but also the occasional carrion they find.








They have a keen sense of smell but poor eyesight.   Their eyes are far back on their head, enabling them to watch for predators as they kneel on their front legs and eat.   Calluses form on a warthog piglet's front legs even before it is born.




video








What’s remarkable about them is that they can go several months without water, particularly valuable in a land that has frequent droughts, and can tolerate a higher body temperature than normal.







They are also all over the place, especially where people plant those nice green lawns that taste so good and where the soil is easy to dig, which must please the lawn-owners no end.   Warthogs, so-called because of two protuberances near the eyes and, on males, near their tusks, den up at night in holes dug by ardvarks.  They back in, ready to defend themselves with their tusks or run, which is their usual form of protection.   They can run as fast as 30 mph, or faster depending on what’s after them.






We had seen one explode from an aardvark hole at Mabula reserve, too fast to get photos.

Those warts, Brian says, are useful when the animal lies down as the tusks would otherwise hold the snout end of the skull off the ground in an awkward manner.  The warts enable the skull to lie in a relatively flat position.



Digging a hole in the lawn.




I watch the piglets play for a while, pushing each other with their snouts in mock fights, digging holes in the lawns, and attacking the sow to nurse.   











This angle shows the prominent wart on the mother warthog.




 Then two lie down beside each other to nap, but the other two won’t allow any sleeping and hassle them.

















Then, it’s time to meet the others for our afternoon safari into Chobe National Park.  At the bottom of the stairs, I see some banded mongoose scampering around and stop to watch them digging in the hole the warthogs had been enlarging, as well as under the foundations of buildings.

















They are 12 to 16 inches long and weigh between 3.5 and 5 lbs.   After pups emerge from the den, they will seek out a “helper” or “escort” that will feed them until they are able to forage for beetle, grasshoppers, etc., and small vertebrates.   The pup receives it food exclusively from its escort.















Time to go.  I’m still gobsmacked from our cruise on the Chobe River yesterday and can’t imagine anything that can top that.


8 comments:

  1. What feeds on the warthogs? What is their natural enemy or predator? Are they vulnerable on the lawns of the Lodges you stay at or are they safe there?

    The Mongoose 'pups' .. We are a little confused about their 'helper' or their 'escort' that they seek out to feed them. Don't their mothers take care of their own pups or offspring? IF not .. what type of animal acts as a baby mongoose pup 'helper' or mongoose pup 'escort'?

    Since you were just now here in our condo with Patti and I .. and you published this post from our computer .. we feel 'honored' to be a part of this post.

    I was surprised however when you did NOT say to me in person .. "Cap! Ease up on these comments you are posting here!" .. Smiles as ever from Cap and from Patti ..

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  2. Any of the big cats feed on warthogs, so they are relatively safe around the lodges. Relatively being the operative word. Mongoose have litters and the adult takes care of a single baby, so the older ones pitch in and " help" a youngster for a few weeks. Google it for more info. And, I appreciate comments because I have an inferiority complex and think I am sometimes the only one who reads my blog....

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    1. I KNOW .. FOR AN ABSOLUTE FACT .. THAT I AM THE ONLY ONE WHO READS MY WEB SITES .. SO DO NOT FEEL ALONE WITH THAT FLAWED-INTERNAL-THINKING !! .. AT LEAST YOU GET A STEADY STREAM OF COMMENTS .. SMILES .. CAP

      Well YOU Gullible and 'Zilla and Gord and Al .. ?? .. a few others do check my sites .. Smiles from the Loussac on Saturday .. Patti is here with me ..

      THANKS FOR YOUR FEEDBACK .. SOME QUESTIONS I POST HERE SO THAT OTHERS WHO MAY HAVE SIMILIAR QUESTIONS BUT DO NOT ASK THEM WILL GET SOME FEEDBACK..

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  3. Way Cool Jeanne, thanks. Irene

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  4. I don't always post but I always read yours...they're much more informative and interesting than any geography teacher I ever had. I used to keep track of how many hits I got on my blog then decided I'm okay if no one reads them cause I like writing them....if only for me.

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  5. It's nice of you to take an interest in ALL animals, not just the ones that are popular to the majority of folks. Seeing the warthogs on their knees is comical, but there's almost always a reason for unusual animal characteristics.

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  6. A note from Zilla. I certainly enjoy your stories and photos! You have a great way of explaining all the scenes wherever you travel! Since you are only at chapter 28, I'm looking forward to the next 28 chapters! As noted before my friends Cap and Patti got me into your travels, and always a pleasure to hear and see your many "things that are going-on".

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    1. HAVE A 'NIFTY' FOR THIS POST 'ZILLA .. CAP AND PATTI ..

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