It was quite unexpected when we came across ‘Pumba’. We had been out on a special job cutting up an elephant carcass which had been shot on a Game Reserve near Hoedspruit. On our return to the Moholoholo Animal Rehabilitation Centre late that afternoon, still very bloodied and filthy in the heat and flies, there was ‘Pumba’.

Warthog, Shamwari Game Reserve, South Africa

He was all on his own happily grazing bent down on his calloused hairy knees, chomping the recently burnt down grass of the visitor’s car park. I was very excited as although we had seen many warthogs in our time in Africa I hadn’t seen one at Moholoholo.  Plus this guy seemed quite calm and not disturbed by the noises of vehicles passing him by.


So, as soon as we pulled up at the entrance to Moholoholo, I jumped out and ran over to where he was to get some photos. I was a little nervous getting up close and personal as I didn’t know how he would react to human company within his personal space. And he had big tusks, and who knows probably teeth to match.

Well I needn’t have worried. He was quite a chilled warthog and allowed me to get right up to him. I thought small pieces of apple may be a good tease to get his attention and perhaps even get close enough to touch and stroke him…


Well this was yet another first for me. He LOVED the bits of apple and quite frightened me by his enthusiasm which I hadn’t expected! Tony then thought he would upstage me and feed him the rest of the apple which he grabbed out of Tony’s hand while Tony tried to appear all macho and relaxed about it.  Hah, he didn’t convince me!

Warthog Moholoholo South Africa

He even allowed me to get right up close to him and stroke and cuddle his back.  I was amazed at how coarse his hair and skin were. And he had the cutest of bottoms, even for a warthog.

Warthog Moholoholo South Africa 0

What I hadn’t noticed is that he also had a few ticks around his nether region which Tony rather gleefully pointed out to me afterwards….AAARGH!

Warthog Moholoholo South Africa

Tony never told me that he was in fact a hand reared, ex-orphan from the Rehab Centre. I was under the impression he was a completely wild hog but I should have known. A wild hog would NEVER allow you to get that close. Only hand reared animals would, hence they can be more dangerous than a wild animal as they are not scared of humans.


Warthogs are found in most of Africa south of Sahara and especially in East Africa. They are not a particularly graceful or beautiful animal, but they are quite a remarkable pig, weighing between 50kg up to big heavyweights at 130kg and living for months without water if necessary, like camels and desert gazelles.

Duelling Male Warthogs, Shamwari Game Reserve, South Africa

 A warthog spends a lot of time grazing on short grass, its favourite food, so its eyes are set quite high so they can see predators (mainly lions and leopards) even when they lower their heads to feed. They are not exactly a pretty animal but we loved them for their quirkiness. They are usually quite skittish and scare easily if you try to approach them, usually rushing off with their tails held high like little flags.

How do you tell a male from a female warthog? Well males have three sets of facial warts whilst females don’t have the set near the jaw. Plus the boys are often on their own, whilst the girls usually are in small family groups.


Warthogs are herbivorous and usually eat mainly grass, but apparently they also berries and fruit, and if in captivity they have been known to also eat grain, alfalfa, broccoli, sweet potatoes, squash, bananas, endive lettuce, carrots and even yams.

Well apparently Pumba’s favourite treat was apples and also oranges for which he has been known to sit with staff and be fed a whole orange, piece by piece. Can you imagine that? Go figure!  Only at Moholoholo….

[Photos and videos by Tony and Irene Isaacson]

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