Sight to behold: Looking at Pumba, one may think he is no doubt a ferocious animal.

Our very own local zoo is home to Pumba, an adult male warthog, named after the iconic warthog character Pumbaa from the Disney movie The Lion King.

Warthogs—not to be confused with wild hogs which inhabit our local forests—are Afri­can animals. They are members of the same family as domestic pigs, however, they look quite different. These animals get their name from the wart-like structures on their faces. These “warts” are protective bumps and are particularly distinct in males.

Pumba the warthog is surely a sight to behold. He is a sturdy hog and, like other warthogs, exhibits a large, flat head. Pumba’s brown skin colour is sparsely covered with bristly hairs, with a crest along his back. Warthogs can grow to a shoulder height of 30 inches (76 centimetres) and weigh between 120 and 250 pounds (54 to 113 kilogrammes)!

Pumba is not the only impressive warthog on display. The zoo’s sounder or group of warthogs comprises both boars (males) and sows (females). Over the past few years, natural warthog courtship has been observed which resulted in the birth of tiny warthog piglets. Females typically produce litters of four or fewer young after a gestation period of about six months. The adorable newborn piglets weigh between one and two pounds (0.4 to 0.9 kilogrammes) and are nursed for about the next four months.

‘Taking flight’

Looking at Pumba, one may think he is no doubt a ferocious animal. However, this is far from the truth. Warthogs prefer to flee than fight! When startled or threatened by a predator, warthogs can take flight and reach speeds of over 50 kilometres per hour. Lions, leopards and cheetahs are just some of the carnivorous animals which prey upon warthogs in the wild.

Another survival tactic of warthogs is using a den of another animal as a hiding place. They will use their four sharp tusks to guard the entrance of the den.

According to sandiegozoo.org, “When humans get out of bed, they often stumble along, rubbing their eyes to wake up. Warthogs don’t have the luxury of waking up slowly. When they leave their burrow, they must dash out at top speed in case any predators are waiting for them! It’s not easy to catch them. Besides being good at dodging and running, warthogs are not afraid to fight. They use their sharp lower canine teeth (which look like straight tusks) as weapons while squealing at the top of their lungs!”

Warthogs are grazers. They consume grasses and plants and are definitely not picky eaters. They use their snouts to dig for roots or bulbs, and will also eat berries and tree bark. Often, they can be observed kneeling on their front legs and using their muscular snouts to sniff and dig up yummy food items.

Another interesting fact about these mammals is they able to go long periods without water, even up to several months in the dry season. When water does become available, warthogs like being submerged for keeping cool. Pumba, like the other warthogs at the zoo, enjoys wallowing in the mud, not only to keep cool but as a natural way to gain relief from insects.

Warthogs are truly fascinating and quite unique animals. They may not be the most good-looking or graceful of animals, but are surely adaptable and intelligent. So next time you visit the zoo, look out for Pumba and the gang, and you can discover for yourself how spectacular these animals are!

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