You can’t always judge a book by its cover. Or, in the case of the Pantanal wetlands region of South America, a pig by its invasive status.
The Pantanal can be found at the center of the South American continent, south of the Amazon basin and east of the Andes. An immense landlocked river delta where floodwaters regularly rise several meters and then recede every year, the Pantanal is considered to be one of the largest freshwater wetlands on the planet. If you were to visit the Pantanal today, you’d encounter an abundance of unique and diverse plant and animal life. You’d also find lots of feral pigs.
In recent years, feral pigs have made headlines around the world. In most cases, these wild swine are considered an invasive species. The pigs’ constant rooting and eating stamps out native plant life and drive off small animal species who find themselves unable to compete with their voracious appetites.
Since 1989, the number of wild boars in and around Berlin has risen from 3,000 to between 8,000 and 10,000. The boars dig up gardens, parks and cemeteries, causing thousands of euros worth of damage. Statistics show that in the last year the boars have been responsible for 15 percent of Berlin’s car accidents. When they are cornered they will charge and charge hard and fast – up to 31 mph, heads down, tusks forward.
In San Diego County, an ever-growing population of wild pigs is taking its toll on native plants and animals. “Biologists are concerned that the wild pigs are unfair competition for the native deer population,” wrote Care2′s Miranda Perry. “They are also worried for the county’s ground-nesting birds. But the pigs may pose an even greater danger to plant life…the pigs are eating new-growth trees.”
Interestingly, introducing the pigs to the Pantanal had almost the opposite effect. “The introduction of feral pigs (about 200 years ago) relieved a significant amount of hunting pressure on native species, allowing populations a chance to rebound [after bans on hunting and trapping other species were put into place]. Pantanal denizens prefer to hunt pigs as opposed to native wildlife because they are abundant, easily accessible, and provide a substantial amount of meat and oil. Pig hunting has become an important part of Pantanal culture,” writes Erica Santana for Mongabay.com.
Hunting the pigs has been met with mixed emotions in Europe and the United States. Since its been quite a while since most Americans could be considered “subsistence hunters” it’s not so easy to simply suggest that we utilize one form of meat over another. Additionally, feral pigs are quite intelligent, making them difficult targets. In fact, in Louisiana, pig control efforts have resorted to unmanned aerial drones in an effort to cull hog populations while keeping hunters safe.
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