Catching up with our warthog sounder
Hey everyone! Today I thought I’d share an update with you about how the warthogs are doing. Did you know a group of warthogs is called a sounder? And can you believe how big the piglets are now?! Now, they’re basically real-sized warthogs! Currently, all three girls weigh in around 100 pounds each. Female warthogs usually average around 165 pounds, with males reaching up to 300 pounds. Daphne, Eloise, and Penelope each have a unique personality, but all three of them are full of energy and never cease to make me laugh with their playful antics.
Currently, the team has been working on basic positive reinforcement training behaviors with them like “target,” where we ask for them to touch their nose to an object that we present to them. This behavior is simple, but can help to work toward more complex behaviors, such as presenting their side, through a series of steps that begin with a target. It’s been amazing to see them pick up on even the simplest of behaviors so quickly, and it’s always fun working with them because they are usually very eager to train!
Eleanor knows a wide range of behaviors and is currently learning a few new ones with Hoofstock Keeper Danielle. Danielle has been training Eleanor to line up and present her side in preparation for receiving vaccine injections. She’s also taught her a “scoot” behavior where once El is sitting in the proper position, she asks her to scoot forward so that staff is able to access the specific area of her body they need to reach. From there, we have a tiny insert at our training panel where we can open it and safely access her in order to touch her with the training needle. The purpose of this behavior is ultimately to assist in desensitizing Eleanor to needles, which has been a process of gradually getting her accustomed to receiving an actual injection. Training this behavior is not only important for Eleanor’s well-being, but it also shows the positive bond that we form, and the trust involved with the animals here when we do a training session.
The piglets’ Dad, Hamlet, who joined us in 2020, has grown so much from the time that he arrived. It’s been amazing to see him go from the timid guy he was when he arrived here at Zoo Atlanta, to now coming over immediately in the mornings to greet his care team as they walk by their behind-the-scenes spaces. He has certainly become braver, coming out of his shell and letting his personality show, and seeing him learn new things and developing a positive relationship with me and the rest of the team is a rewarding part of my job.
If you get a chance to stop by the Zoo to see the warthogs in person, you’ll most likely either see everyone snuggled up next to one another, or you’ll catch one of the girls getting the zoomies (where they twirl full speed down their habitat), or sparring with one another or with Mom or Dad (they might not have full-sized tusks yet, but they channel all of their willpower in a duel against their Dad). You might also see the warthogs wallowing in one of their several mud holes that the Hoofstock Care Team makes sure to refresh daily. It’s a really cute behavior to witness in person because they get so excited as they roll around in the mud, but did you know that this behavior also serves an important purpose? Warthogs do not have sweat glands, and therefore need to wallow in the mud in order to stay cool as well as stay protected from parasites. As such, making sure we refresh their wallows is an important task that the Hoofstock Care Team does during our morning routine, especially during the summer months.
I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about our little warthog family here at the Zoo! And remember, if you can’t make it here in person soon, be sure to check out our PandaCam on Fridays, as we feature various other animals from around the Zoo from 11 a.m. to Noon, and you might just get a chance to catch the warthogs on camera!
(Photo: Amanda D.)
Keeper I, Mammals