Nest Watch – 3

Geetha Iyer

In this concluding part of Nest watch, I have an assorted collection of nests that are quite different from what one is accustomed to seeing or hearing about. I am describing these nests in the fond hope that when teachers take students on eco-tours into protected sanctuaries, they can look out for these nests.

Wild pigs
wild-pig We know them as wild boars. Recently they have been rechristened by biologists as wild pigs. These are animals that are easy to observe in the forests although the loss of habitats is fast posing a threat to survival of these creatures. Once upon a time there were at least six to seven species of wild boars roaming the forests of India. Today there are just two species left – the wild pig and an even more endangered pygmy hog found in the north-eastern regions of our country. Generally nocturnal, they possess a strong sense of smell but poor eyesight. They are not scared of humans, are known to destroy farm crops and come looking for left over foods around human habitation. They roam about in groups-described as sounders – which consist of the mature sow, sub-adult sows, and young ones. The males are generally solitary and enter the sounder during the mating period. The wild pigs are quite brave and will charge at you at the slightest hint of insecurity; they charge even at a tiger if they sense danger. Offence it seems is their defence, so be careful when you see them.

There are two kinds of nests that the wild pigs make. The farrowing (for giving birth) and the resting nests. The pre-parturition nest or the farrow nest is made by the sow 24 hours before giving birth. The nest is made of plant materials available close to where the nests would be built. The nest is a length wise structure generally oval to oblong in shape. These are made in select places chosen by the female. The selected place is generally first dug out by the females before the construction starts. The depressions are lined with leaves and are generally built next to trees or wooden logs for added protection. Depending on the weather sometimes they are built in open grasslands or next to water. The nest often resembles a long bed of woven basket. The top of the nest is like a dome to cover and keep the babies warm. A bigger and larger sow often builds a bigger nest than the smaller sows.

The farrowing nests are used for only a week after which they are shifted to a resting nest. The nests, besides providing warmth to the newborns are believed to also protect it from predators such as leopards, when the sow is away foraging. She never moves far away from the young ones, but the danger of a predator is high. Thus the farrowing nests are constructed to serve as a camouflage too.

The resting nest is not as complex as the farrowing nest. However it is not sometimes possible to distinguish the two as noted by researchers who examined several farrow and resting nests.

In general, these are used, as the name suggests, by resting females and hence do not posses all the characteristics of a farrowing nest. Sometimes the excavations were shallow, often linings were scarce with just the bedding materials arranged sufficiently to allow the pigs to rest.

The author is a consultant for science and environment education. She can be reached at scopsowl@gmail.com.

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