Local story, wide concern

Written by Naomie Blom

Living in Magaliesberg Biosphere I experience nature in its many facets - the spitting cobra in the lounge, rambunctious monkeys in the garden, darting guinea fowl and flitting butterflies, and the oh-so-beautiful warthogs who have became daily visitors.

The warthogs seem to be creatures of routine, and have claimed a space as their own. Bob, the big warthog is a kindly soul. Sly on the other hand has all that youthful exuberance that lulls me into forgetting he is a wild animal. I believe he would skip and shove behind me around the yard if I let him. Sally, is the first piglet born from one group and I have enjoyed watching her explore her surroundings as she has grown.
    Sally - the warthog
This idyllic picture has been shattered in the past few months. Guinea fowls and warthogs have been arriving hurt or entangled by snare wires. It was heartbreaking to watch a guinea fowl, escaped from the snare but no longer able to use his leg, trying to keep up with the flock. I failed to catch it, and a few days later, found the dead bird.
Most commonly the warthogs are snared around their snouts while they snuffle through the bush. The wire pulls tight around their snout and they are unable to eat. It is a long and painful death either by starvation or by blood poisoning from the wire.

My first encounter with a snared warthog in obvious distress, was devastating. I had no idea what to do. Fortunately, my close neighbour is Glen Afric and their manager, Bill Lourens, sent help. Bill advised that as the warthog was managing to eat, I should feed him as much as possible. The repetitive motion can cause the snare to break. Bill provided horse pellets - these contain sufficient nutrients to sustain the distressed warthogs. Luckily the wire was only a problem for a couple of days, but December seemed with each new day to bring another animal in distress.
Bill has been a valued expert as first Sly arrived with a snare around his upper snout, then Sally, the piglet, turned up without her mother and Bob was snared around his snout and foot.
Bob could barely walk and he was foaming at the mouth. I put out food and water but at first, he was too exhausted to eat. He struggled with the snare around his mouth for about 2 weeks and the snare around his leg persisted.     Warthog snared
I don’t know if someone managed to get him caught to finally remove the snare, or if the continual fretting at it broke the snare. Every time he arrives I call Bill to give him an update; we are watching to see Bob is going to retain his leg or not. The lower leg is swollen and infected, but Bill says that while the warthog still attempts to use the leg, there is hope. If not, the animal will have to euthanised.

Sly still has a snare around his snout and his breathing is laboured. Sally has made her home with another group of females who thankfully appear to be looking after her.

Editor: The local story, focused on one sounder of warthogs, is the tale of poaching and illegal traps across the country. The attention is firmly on Rhino poaching, yet the practice is wide-spread. Also, in December the comment period closed on legislation intended to provide uniform norms and standards for the techniques, equipment and methods of controlling “damage causing animals” - animals in the wild which damage livestock or threaten the livelihood of humans. Some measures to control problem animals are as cruel as snaring. The standards may be viewed on www.environment.gov.za

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