By Yvonne de Jong & Tom Butynski, Eastern Africa Primate Diversity and Conservation Program
In mid-October (2015), good numbers of desert warthogs (Phacochoerus aethiopicus) were encountered on patches of short green grass near the Ewaso Nyiro River in Samburu National Reserve, central Kenya. The video below shows a solitary female (being ‘groomed’ by a red-billed oxpecker Buphagus erythrorhynchus), a bachelor sounder of six adult males, a sounder of two females with a young male and six piglets, and a female with piglets. Additional images of desert warthogs can be viewed at Warthog PhotoMap.
Desert warthog sounder at Samburu National Reserve, central Kenya. Photograph by Yvonne de Jong & Tom Butynski.
Adult male desert warthog at Samburu National Reserve, central Kenya. Photograph by Yvonne de Jong & Tom Butynski.
Young male desert warthog with two piglets at Samburu National Reserve, central Kenya. Photograph by Yvonne de Jong & Tom Butynski.
There are two species of warthog in Africa, the common warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) and the desert warthog (Phacochoerus aethiopicus). The common warthog is widespread in sub-saharan Africa, including the Horn of Africa (i.e., Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea). The desert warthog, one of Africa’s least known large mammals, is restricted to the Horn of Africa. Its distribution is, however, poorly understood. Until recently, observers in the Horn of Africa have not differentiated between the two species of warthog. As such, the limits of the distributions of these two species over the Horn of Africa remains poorly known, as does their conservation status.
Adult male desert warthog Phacochoerus aethiopicus in Tsavo West National Park, southeast Kenya. Note the flipped-back ear tips, hooked warts, broad, egg-shaped head, relatively broad snout-disc, and swollen suborbital area (area under the eyes). Photograph by Y. A. de Jong & T. M. Butynski.
Adult male common warthog Phacochoerus africanus on the Laikipia Plateau, central Kenya. Note the cone shaped warts, pointed ear tips, relatively narrow snout-disc, and the diabolo-shaped head. Photograph by T. M. Butynski & Y. A. de Jong.
To better understand the distribution of Africa’s warthogs, we would like to know if you have seen desert warthogs or common warthogs in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya or Tanzania. A photograph and details of your encounter (including date, coordinates, altitude…or detailed locality description) would be highly appreciated.
Please email your photographs and the details of your encounter, or post them in the ‘comments’ below. Thank you very much!
Yvonne de Jong, Thomas Butynski & Jean-Pierre d’Huart
For more information about the two species of warthog, including their diagnostic characters, see the following publications and websites
De Jong, Y.A. & Butynski, T.M. (2012-2015) Quest for Kenya´s Desert Warthog
De Jong, Y.A. & Butynski, T.M. (2014) Distribution, Abundance, Ecology, and Conservation Status of the Desert Warthog (Phacochoerus aethiopicus) in Northern Kenya.
Culverwell, J., Feely, J., Bell-Cross, S., De Jong, Y.A. & Butynski, T. M. (2008). A new pig for Tsavo.
De Jong, Y.A. Culverwell, J. & Butynski T.M. (2009). Desert warthog Phacochoerus aethiopicus found in Tsavo East National Park and Tsavo West National Park, southern Kenya
d’Huart, J.P. & Grubb, P. (2005). A photographic guide to the differences between the Common Warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) and the Desert Warthog (Ph. aethiopicus).