The largest of the wild pig species in the world, the giant forest hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhangeni) inhabits dense forested areas and open savannahs of western and central Africa, native to several countries including (but not limited to) Cameroon, Congo, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan. However, distribution can best be described as patchy due to deforestation and agricultural cultivation of the original habitat (d’Huart and Yohannes, 1995). Tectonic activity (e.g. the Rift Valley) is partially responsible for the evolution of 3 subspecies of the forest hogs, with H. m. meinertzhangeni, found in Ethiopia, being considered the ‘true’ giant forest hog (d’Huart and Yohannes, 1995).
Males reach a shoulder height of approximately 1 m and can weigh up to 275 kg; heavier than the females by roughly 50 kg. Their diet consists of sub-canopy vegetation, such as tubers, roots and underground meristems (Cerling et al. 2004). These hogs can be found in groups or as solitary animals, leaving clearly distinguishable tunnelling systems throughout the forest undergrowth (Treves et al. 2010). With an average lifespan of 5 years in the wild, forest hogs reproduce all year. Females are sexually mature after 1.5 years of age and produce a litter of 2-4 piglets after a 3 month gestation period.
Due to its aggressive nature and territoriality it has escaped the trappings of domestication and as a bonus is rarely hunted for bush meat (although still hunted as trophies) since their flesh has an unpleasant taste (Jori and Bastos, 2009; d’Huart and Klingel, 2008). Overall, very little scientific research has been done regarding their ecology and behaviour, but they are listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species due to their large distribution range, relatively few threats and high numbers in the wild.
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