A poster inviting registrations for a citizen science program by the forest department, featured a Wild boar. Not any other “popular” animal from the state, this left me perplexed and intrigued.
I had just returned from my US stint and was keen to start contributing to the conservation efforts in the state I live in, Karnataka. It was the year 2014, when Karnataka forest department rolled out a volunteer training program, a residential week long program open to public with limited number of seats. The batch I enrolled was the second in the series, it was to be held at the popular Nagarhole Tiger Reserve. This was at a time when Karnataka boasted to host the maximum number of tigers in the country and Nagarhole national park was the jewel in this crown.
Now, why would you have Wild Boar as the mascot of such a sought after program, in a state and at a national park which is an ecological hotspot for Tigers? Why not a Tiger, a leopard, an elephant, a Gaur or a peacock? I questioned.
This led me to the world of wild boars. For us in India, the animal is introduced pretty early in our lives. However, as the generations passed by, thanks to all the filth and rot it indulges in, even associating it with mythology didn’t do much in its favour. In fact, it was/is on the verge of being declared vermin, by a mindless few..
In essence, wild boars truly are saviours of our ecosystem, broadly on two counts – Clearing up rot and making way for vegetation.
Let me explain..
Wild boars are opportunistic feeders and change their diet depending on what is available, which varies with seasons, weather conditions, and locations. Wild boars are omnivorous, while they mostly eat plant matter they also consume dead animals, rodents, insects, and worms.
With them being opportunistic feeders, scavenging is part of their routine. This consumption behaviour helps clear animal carcasses left over by larger predators. Wild boars, similar to vultures, do immense favour to the entire ecosystem by clearing up the rotten mess this way, which otherwise could trigger an epidemic devastation.
Wild boars also engage in another behaviour which supports the ecosystem immensely. Though opportunistic omnivores, their main diet continues to be vegetarian. They are fond of vegetation on the forest floor, and also love what lives underneath it. This includes grubs, subterranean insects and their larvae, as well as succulent roots. In the process, they end up digging the place but don’t bother covering it once they are done.
How does this help? Well, it gets interesting here.. The uncovered forest floor absorbs seeds dispersed by trees, birds and other natural agents. A spell of rain and new life sprouts. Wild boar plays a pivotal role in this continuous cycle.
With an average lifespan of ten years, you can imagine the ecological contribution of each wild boar.
Our ancestors knew the animal well, cave paintings are evidence to showcase their interaction with wild boars and understanding its important role, since as early as the Stone Age. However, now in the 21st century, Humans are the biggest threat to them – game hunting, illegal poaching and increasing demand for their meat is causing serious damage to their population. On the other hand, deforestation is pushing these wild animals to adjoining farms, their feeding behaviour damages crops, which enrage farmers to kill them.
Quick trivia: Wild boars tend to do most of their foraging in the late evening and into the night. They are efficient communicators. Their flattened snouts give excellent smell sensing ability, head structure equips them with hearing of top order and eyesight boasts an excellent peripheral vision. All this making them the master of their trade.
Awareness is the key, let us do our bit by spreading the word of how important Wild Boars are to the ecosystem and help protect our saviour.
THIS SAVIOUR NEEDS HELP!
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