During the breeding season of 2007/2008 the survival rate of the warthog piglets in Marloth Park was very good. On average each mature mother seemed to have raised between two and three piglets. It also appears through observation that the number of male piglets born was higher than the number of females.
Food resources during the early part of 2008 were good but unfortunately little rain fell causing the grass and small shrubs to dry up sooner than usual. This made it difficult for the warthogs to find food.
Our plots on Steenbok Street were frequented by several groups of warthogs. One group consisted of two females and three piglets (two males and one female). This group visited us almost every day.
One day in early May I noticed that one of the females was missing her tail and had a nasty wound where the tail should have been. Since it was healing well I was not concerned. I thought that perhaps the females had been fighting for one or other reason. I had not seen tail biting in warthogs before but was aware that it did happen in domestic pigs.
Two days later with the rut in full swing the second female arrived missing her tail, I began to wonder why it was that both the females had suffered with the same injury. Could it be that there was an over amorous male in the area?
On one occasion I had heard some very loud squealing in the bush close by but could not see what was happening and this may have just been part of normal mating behaviour.
Several weeks later the same group of warthogs arrived to visit. I immediately noticed that one was suffering from a prolapsed womb which was very nasty. On closer examination it looked like the skin around the vulva had been torn away causing a severe injury that had opened the body cavity. This made it easy for the internal organs to protrude from the abdominal cavity. The blue flies were already attracted to the site of the injury and had started laying their eggs in the moist area. In addition the prolapsed region was covered in dirt. To me it was obvious that this wound had little chance of recovery without medical intervention which it was unlikely to get.
A few days later the group again arrived this time the injured female was looking very stressed and was rubbing the wound on every tree that she passed. The maggots that had hatched in the wound were irritating her.
We sent for the local Municipal ranger who said he would see to it. That was the last time I saw the animal. Whether she was dispatched by the rangers or died a horrible death from an infection I do not know.
Subsequently I have spoken to several other residents of the area who had seen warthogs with similar signs of tail biting.
On browsing the internet I found several sites where tail biting in domestic pigs was discussed. It would seem that this happens when domestic pigs suffer stress. One of the stressors mentioned being overcrowding in the pen. Could it be that the Marloth warthogs are suffering from overcrowding? In my opinion there does seem to be an abundance of warthogs in the area. The results of the 2008 game count may confirm this.
It would be very interesting to hear from readers who have any experience of tail biting in domestic pigs. I would also be interested to hear from others who have witnessed tail biting in warthogs.