Saturday, December 29, 2007
Rumours of Mrs Pig's death may have been greatly exaggerated
Around the time of Mrs Blog's significant birthday, back in November, there was a very portly, very pregnant warthog who did a good job of keeping the grass down outside the Pretoriuskop fence.
Mrs Pig, as we named her, was eating for several - five including herself, as it turned out. Warthogs can be a bit fussy sometimes, getting down on their front knees to root about in the dirt for tubors (whatever a tubor is), but this was a pig on a mission. She hoovered up everthing in her path - grass, weeds, plants, small creatures, and even the mess left over after a particularly messy night on the drink at the Blog campsite. Enough said about that. (Note, though, Legion of Fans, that Mrs B and I do not deliberately feed any birds or animals in the Kruger Park).
With impressive timing Mrs P gave birth to a litter of four exceptionally cute hoglets just in time for the Australian invasion, in which 21 people arrived in Africa for Mrs B's birthday.
She (Mrs Pig, not Mrs Blog) was living in a drainage culvert just up the road from the camp, near the turn off to Skukuza, and was regularly spotted by our guests, proudly posing with her porky brood.
Imagine, then , LOF, the horror when Pat the national parks night drive guide let slip in front of the entire party of Australians that a leopard had been seen outside the Pig House and that Mrs Pig had not been seen for some time.
Consensus around the camp, for days after, was that Mrs Pig had gone to all that fattening effort solely to provide an early Christmas dinner for Mr Leopard.
However, on Christmas Day, 2007, as Mrs Blog and I strung our hammocks between trees at the Pretoriuskop swimming pool and popped open a celebratory beer or two a group of young African boys pointed to the fence and said "Look. A pig."
In fact, not just one warthog, but four. A portly mother pig, who looked remarkably familiar, and three little piglets who looked about a month old.
One piglet might not have made it - sad, but not unusual - or it could have been a completely different Mrs Pig.
The next day, this Mrs Pig and her little ones entered the camp via the revolving gate in the fence that separates the main part of the camp from a path leading to the staff village outside. The revolving gate was designed to keep animals out, but pigs, so I'm told, are clever animals.
A smartly-uniformed national parks desk wallah sidled up to me while I was taking a picture of the warthog and her babies, and said to me: "Be careful, these things are very dangerous. She may charge at any moment, to protect her piglets."
I knew that, technically, he was right, though Mrs Pig had never struck me as the aggressive, tourist-killing type.
She obviously knew we were talking about her, however, because she squared up, right then and there. She tossed her head imperiously and took three steps towards us. The office Johnny turned and took three back, before peeking over my shoulder.
What happened to "don't run", "don't turn your back", and "don't show fear" I wondered? I sincerely hoped we didn't come across Mr Leopard.
But then I took another look at those stubby tusks, that knobbly head, and what might just have been a killer gleam in her beady eye.
I was about to take a step back myself, but a green-uniformed field ranger armed with a catapult appeared on the scene, much to the relief of his pig-shy colleague. The ranger had been out deterring monkeys with his catapult and a bag of stones, but the warthog knew she had met her match.
She gathered her porkettes and the four of them trotted off down the fence line, tails raised like aerials, until she came to the revolving gate and barged her way through.
A pig that's smart enough to tell desk jockeys from bush rangers, and to teach her babies how to open an animal-proof gate is smart enough to save herself and three piglets from a leopard, I reckon.