- History and Culture
The ‘wild’ boars or feral pigs dwelling in the forests and hunting reserves around Mauritius are believed to have been introduced by the Dutch and descended from the domesticated pig. Introductions have made feral pigs and wild boars the widest-ranging mammals in the world. Wild boars like all swines have a large head which is adapted to act as a plough aided by its powerful neck muscles and a long snout strengthened by a special prenasal bone and a disk of cartilage, enabling them to fiercely dig through the ground and lift heavy rocks. Massive and bulky, the animal has in contrast short and relatively thin legs, with four hoofed toes on each foot that allow it to run at up to 40 kilometers per hour and jump at a height of up to 1.5 meters. The two larger central toes bear most of the weight. They have small deep-set eyes and long and broad ears. Both males and females have well developed canine teeth, with males’ canines protruding from their mouths. Sexual dimorphism is quite present: males are larger and quite significantly heavier than females.
The wild pig Sus scrofa is known to take advantage of any forage resources and therefore has been observed to live in any productive habitat that can provide enough water to sustain it. In Mauritius they are commonly found in forested areas, where their ground foraging traces can be observed. Environmental factors determine adult sizes and populations; boars living in arid areas tend to be smaller. Omnivorous animals, wild pigs forage for leaves, roots, fruits, flowers and some insects and fish. At the beginning of the breeding season, males develop a subcutaneous armour that is 2 to 3 cm thick that extends from the shoulder blades to the rump in preparation for fighting rival males. In addition, their testicles double in size and the glands secrete a foamy yellowish liquid. They search for a sounder of sows, often travelling long distances and fasting. When a sounder has been found, the male will oust all young animals and fiercely fight potential rivals before mating with 5 to 10 females. At the end of the rut, males are often badly injured and would have lost 20% of their body weight. Pigs and boars are social animals that live in female-dominated groups led by an old matriarch and comprising barren females and mothers with young. At 8 to 15 months, male boars leave their group while young sows either remain with their mothers or establish new territories nearby. Juvenile males may live in loosely knit groups, while adult and elderly males tend to be solitary outside the breeding season. The gestation may vary between 114 and 140 days, with the period increasing with age. The litter size usually consists of 4 to 6 piglets, raised in a nest constructed of twigs, grasses and leaves. Other females adopt the young if the mother die.
Although it has been hunted to near extinction in some of its native range, the Wild Boar remains common throughout the world. In Mauritius, it is considered an invasive species, as its rooting activities can prevent the growth of native plants and further spread invasive plants such as the strawberry guava. As a game animal, their population is controlled in hunting reserves.
Domesticated pigs, along with other farm animals, were left to fend for themselves when they were dropped off in 1606 by Dutch Admiral Matelief de Jonge, before any attempt at permanent human settlement was made. Most animals thrived to the point that their population had to be controlled as of 1709.
Oliver, W. & Leus, K. 2008. Sus scrofa. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T41775A10559847. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T41775A10559847.en.
Animal Diversity Web. 2014. Sus scrofa. http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Sus_scrofa/.
Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce. 2007. Sus scrofa. http://www.sms.si.edu/irlspec/sus_scrofa.htm.