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(Potamochoerus larvatus) is a wild pig, the only representative of the order Artiodactyla and the largest wild mammal found in Madagascar.
It is thought that his arrival from Africa to Madagascar is relatively recent, however, how it happened is still a mystery. The most likely hypothesis is that of arriving at the same time as the first human populations from Africa who settled in part, Madagascar, 2000 years ago.
This assumption is based on the fact that bushpig could be domesticated or semi-domesticated before its introduction on the island. Some authors have found evidence of domestication of bush pig in some parts of Africa (Faure and Guerin, 1988).
In contrast, other authors suggest that the species may be endemic to Madagascar. This would be in the latter case the only Malagasy species that has an equivalent in the African continent (except for one species already extinct pygmy hippopotamus).
Bibliographic data on the distribution of bush pig in Madagascar indicate its presence in a vast majority of the Malagasy territory, except for the Highlands. Preference for wooded areas with no water, and its ability to adapt as to fit several very different areas of the territory such as the rain forest on the east coast, the semi-deciduous dry forest West or South shrublands.
The densities are important in forest areas that are their ideal habitat, especially in protected areas, where they stay away from their one and main predator: man.
According to the literature two species of bush pigs are classically recognized:
- Potamochoerus porcus, living in the rainforests of West Africa and Central Africa.
- Potamochoerus larvatus, in the mosaics of forest savanna of East Africa and Southern Africa. The latter species has three sub-species of the large morphological variation and geographical P.larvatus Hassam, in East Africa; P.larvatus somaliensis, Ethiopia, and P.larvatus koiropotamus, South Africa.
In Madagascar, the bush pig is considered an introduced species for about 2000 years, from the species P. larvatus. According to Cuvier (1822), two subspecies are described:
- P.larvatus larvatus whose distribution is bounded on the west coast of Madagascar and the Comoros. This subspecies is characterized by a coat darker and larger than its parent on the East Coast.
- P.larvatus hova, located on the east side of the island and is characterized by a more reddish coat and a smaller size.
The description of two subspecies keeps a close analogy with the two types of animals described by the Malagasy people as "lamboala" and "lambosui", the first being a greater variety and a darker coat and the second most smaller and Rouss
In several countries in West Africa or Central as Burkina Faso, Gabon and Zaire, cases of crossing with pigs (Sus scrofa) have been reported. The same phenomenon is described in Madagascar, in areas of pig scavenging. Hybridization between bushpig (P. P.larvatus and porcus) and feral pigs are also reported in the literature in Southern Africa and Central Africa.
The domestic pig has 34 pairs of chromosomes and bushpig are 38. Since the genetic distance, it is unlikely that the hybrids are fertile, but in any case, we find sufficient evidence to believe that they can exist in Africa and Madagascar.
In some cases these "hybrid" often described in some areas of the country, could be feral domestic pigs. In the region of Mariarano, for example, the presence of hybrids is often reported as hog farms have been abandoned for 60 years and that many animals could have stayed in scavenging.
Ecology of the bushpig Malagasy
In general, the available information on gender Potamochoerus is scarce. Most information comes from South Africa. The case of Madagascar is no exception, and studies on this species of swine are virtually nonexistent. Often regarded as harmful, it has earned so far very little attention from organizations working on wildlife. The only information found confined to a few report on their impact on endemic species of turtles, with the exception of a recent WCS on the island of Nosy Mangabey.
Social life and the bushpig essentially based on the family group, consisting of a couple of adult animals (male and female) and offspring of a generation or two. The average size of the family group depends on the environment ranging from 2.4 people in South Africa to over 30 in the equatorial forest. In Madagascar, the group size accepted is 1 to 10 maximum. The dispersal of young occurs between 1.5 and 2 years of age.
According to studies carried telemetry in areas of Cape Town, through the territory used by a bush pig is 7.2 km. Territory size depends mainly on food availability. The estimated densities of wild pigs in several regions of South Africa, is between 0.35 and 0.5 animals / km ² and exceeds the 3 individuals / km ² in some areas of rainforest, the life expectancy South Africa is 2.8 years.
In Madagascar, the densities in the forest areas seem high judging by the field observations and the number of animals taken by hunting. On the other hand the absence of natural predators other than humans and feral dogs, allows a longer life expectancy.
It appears that there may be a correlation between habitat quality and density. According to Cumming (1995), alluvial soils harboring higher densities of warthogs on sandy soils. However, soils in the region of Mahajanga are quite heterogeneous texture characterized by a sandy-silty, sandy and laterite based on the distance from the coast, river mouths and relief.
The reproductive cycle of the red river hog is seasonal. In southern Africa, the majority of births take place at the beginning of the rainy season. Factors such as food availability, photoperiod or temperature may be involved in the onset of oestrus. As in other species of wild pigs, the possibility of two litters per year in the tropics are benefiting from two rainy seasons.
Within a family unit, only the dominant pair breed monogamous, once sexually mature, around 20 months of life. After a gestation period of 110-120 days, about four months, the female gives birth to 3 or 4 small on average, although the range of 6 to 8 animals have been described. In South Africa, the reproductive potential of P. larvatus and 2 to 3 small / reach.
In South Africa, the bush pig densities are generally low and the ingestion of vertebrate and invertebrate creatures is seen as opportunistic. Their effects on other animal populations are insignificant. The only exception is that toads rain (Breviceps fuscus), including predation by wild pigs appears to be a significant cause of mortality in the Cape Province.
Predation bushpig several endemic species and its environment has been frequently reported in Madagascar, but rarely demonstrated so far. In general, the bush pig is often perceived by most conservation organizations as a pest for the endemic species of flora and fauna. However, there is a severe lack of data on this species, which makes it difficult to confirm this hypothesis.
The first studies on the ecology of the Malagasy bushpig have not been able to show a negative impact on native species. On the contrary, it appears that these animals may play a role in seed dispersal. Populations living within or around protected areas, bushpig can play a "buffer" on predation of other susceptible species: its classification as a pest allows the hunt all year, and this business supplies meat easily neighboring populations of protected areas, limiting the impact on other protected species. Each bushpig provides at least 55% of its weight in meat. For each animal an average weight of 40 kg, a family receives at least 22 kg of meat quality.
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