Unusual sighting of a bushpig (Potamochoerus larvatus)
Kruger National Park | November 2016
It was quite late in the morning and we were just starting to head back to camp. We had had quite a good morning and as we were returning back to the lodge I decided to swing past Pony Pan. We could see a herd of elephants that were making their way to the waterhole and so I went and parked the car and waited for them. They soon arrived and we had fabulous views of a few females and their youngsters as they played in the mud. A young bull was dominating the area where the water is pumped into the pan. This is where the water is cleanest as it is not stirred up and muddy there. The matriarch soon decided that the herd had had enough to drink and so started to lead them away. We followed them for a short while as they made their way to some thick bushes at the edge of a dry riverbed.
They started to feed on the bushes when we noticed a dark-brown object moving in the thicket. The elephants were just starting to feed on the bushes at the thicket when suddenly an adult male bushpig jumped out and started to run up the embankment opposite us. It had obviously been flushed out by the elephants. As it went over the top of the bank it inadvertently ran into the rest of the herd. The herd all got a fright as the large hairy pig ran in amongst them. The elephants all started trumpeting and gathered close together. It appeared that they did not know what this creature was that had just run into their midst. The elephants then all decided to charge at the bushpig. It ran in between them like a rugby player trying to avoid being tackled and dodged around the legs of the big grey creatures. The elephants were obviously alarmed by the animal that was running between them. The bushpig narrowly avoided being squashed by the elephants and then ran towards the nearby cliffs.
I was very excited as this was the first bushpig that I had seen in the concession (I have not even seen their tracks in the area). Bushpigs are animals that generally prefer thickly-vegetated areas and our concession does not have a lot of this type of habitat. They are more commonly seen in forested areas or in sugar-cane fields (particularly in Natal). They can be quite dangerous animals and have very sharp tusks. They are generally nocturnal and tend to hide in thick bushes during the day. They are omnivores and feed on a wide variety of food including bulbs, roots, fruits and even carrion. They can cause huge problems for farmers when they enter and feed on crops.
We watched as the bushpig among the rocks and then over the ridge. It was an amazing sighting!