May 18, 2020
In Pursuit of Wild Pigs
- as seen by -Alys Granados
Finding a 440 pound wild pig that hangs out in groups of at least 12 – how hard can it be?
You might think sightings would be frequent but giant forest hogs (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni) seem to be experts at evading our research team. As part of work led by Dr. Rafael Reyna-Hurtado of ECOSUR (supported by National Geographic and Fondation Segré), we use camera traps to study giant forest hogs in Kibale National Park, Uganda. We know very little about this threatened species, and how many there are, though populations have likely drastically declined over the past few decades due to overhunting and habitat loss. Kibale could be one of their last strongholds in Uganda so determining how many are left here is crucial for conservation work.
Besides camera traps, we also track hog movement, thanks to our excellent Ugandan field team. I was consistently blown away by their ability to pick up on faint hoof marks in the dirt and to notice slight breaks in understory vegetation. This allowed us to collect important data on which areas of the park are most important to hogs.
We would quietly move through the thick jungle and even walk on flooded paths, following signs of where the hogs had been, all while listening for sounds of forest elephants to avoid dangerous encounters. Even though we weren’t lucky enough to catch up to the hogs in real time, it was an amazing and humbling experience to spend time with the trackers Martin, Aboke, and Okwilo.
Our efforts were rewarded with new information and photos about hog movement and group structure, along with unforgettable chimpanzee and hornbill sightings.