Sighting: Who's the Bigger Pig?
Location: Pafuri Camp, South Africa
Date: 19 June 2012
Observers: Warren Ozorio, Willem Cronje and Janet Wilkinson
Photographs: Warren Ozorio
On a recent trip to Pafuri, the first thing that we noticed was how dry the area is at present. Generally speaking, the extreme northern section of Kruger is one of the lowest rainfall areas in the park, receiving a mere 400mm of annual rain on average. Following a general pattern of ten-year cycles, the Pafuri area is in the middle of a dry cycle and received very little rainfall during the last rainy season, which ended two months ago.
When an environment dries up and both food and water become scarce, the warthog population is amongst the first species to go into dietary strain and lose physical condition. However, we did see plenty of warthog in the area and they still appeared to be in good physical condition. These common little critters are easily overlooked when on safari - much the same as impala. When we came across a duo of boars, one of them an adult and the other a subadult, we decided to watch them for a little while as they were very relaxed in the presence of the vehicle. What happened next surprised us.
The bigger hog found some tasty rootstocks to feed on, and began digging them up, advertising his excitement by snorting while digging through the dry sand. The younger male approached with a certain measure of caution. The adult stopped and stood up, looking at the younger warthog. The younger warthog immediately adopted a submissive role in a way that reminded us of hyaena displaying submission to dominant individuals.
The subordinate male approached the bigger male with a low-slung posture in a bid to avoid direct eye contact, while the bigger male lifted his head slightly to advertise his tushes (tusks). As the younger male was in touching distance, the big male placed his chin on the younger male's snout, placing his tushes in close proximity to the subordinate's eyes (one of the reasons as to why warthog boars have the protective warts beneath their eyes). The young male proceeded to lie down and expose his belly. This is done to further show submission by exposing the vulnerable areas such as the abdomen and genitals. The large male sniffed the subordinate's genitals, grunted in dominance and continued to feed as if nothing had happened. The younger male skulked off - his place had just been reaffirmed in the hierarchy.
As we edge further into the dry and trying times, both inter- and intra-specific competition will only increase and submissive displays may no longer suffice. So, keep a lookout for such interesting sightings amongst our more common species!