Wild Bores are Doing it for Themselves
"As the rabbit has been the problem [sic] of the 20th century, the boar could be that of the 21st century" - Derek Harman, Ex-gamekeeper, Kent. 1
It gives us great pleasure to announce that a touch of wildness has returned to the South East, one of England's tamest regions, and Do or Die's 'manor'.
Up to 300 wild boar are thriving and breeding across a huge swathe of Kent and East Sussex's relatively well-wooded countryside, following regular breakouts from boar farms since the Great Storm of 1987. And it's not just confined to our region - according to Gail Edwards of the Wild Boar Association, "there are animals all over Britain starting to form escape colonies [which have been reported as far north as Humberside and Scotland 2]. The full impact won't be seen for five to ten years." 3)
One should not underestimate the power of these beasts: unpredictable wildness has always gone hand in hand with danger. They are "aggressive, immensely strong and can inflict terrible wounds with their lower tusks, which are kept razor-sharp by being honed against the top tusks, and can reach eight inches or so in length." 4 While a single specimen can be threatening enough, in at least one wood boars have been observed in groups of twenty five or more! Furthermore, these populations are thought to consist mainly of feral hybrids, unconstrained by the boar's traditional wariness towards humans.
For millennia before their final eradication in the 17th century boars carried out a vital role in Britain's forests, enhancing regeneration by rooting and turning over the soil - a task they still perform in French forestry to this day. Roy Dennis of the Highland Foundation for Wildlife5 believes that they could help to restore the Caledonian forest (see "No Evolution Without Revolution", Do or Die no.6), and there is no reason why they could not facilitate wide-scale reafforestation in the South East too. They render another valuable ecological service as well, being extremely effective at decommissioning cars. A single Kent garage had to repair three cars suffering from 'boar damage' in the space of a week, and another vehicle involved in a separate incident was considered a complete write-off.
The situation can only snowball. Apparently, just like any normal human being, these boars "recognise no fence boundaries", and they are "believed to be 'recruiting' other domesticated sows from outdoor pig herds to join them in the wild."6
Sadly, but entirely predictably, vets and farmers are already calling for a cull to contain the boar population. They may carry Swine Fever (as with badgers and the unproven link with Bovine TB) and thus may threaten domestic stocks. MAFF is reported to be 'very interested' - Watch this space!
We would also like to announce a new sub-species - the yuppie boar. One German farmer claims to have lost nearly £20,000 worth of grapes to a fifty strong herd. "They have stripped bare half a hectare of vines, he says, although not without discrimination. It was the two sweetest varieties of grape they chose to devour - Sorten Optima and Muller-Thurgau. They left the Riesling untouched."7
- "The Boar is Back!", Kent Courier, 31/1/97.
- Ironically, a recent scientific feasibility study concluded that "it seems unlikely ... that a successful reintroduction of wild boar [to Scotland] will occur in the foreseeable future." (Tree News, Autumn 1997.)
- "On the Trail of the Wild Boar", Downs Country Nov./Dec. 1997.
- op cit. 1.
- "Return of Key Species could revive Forests ...", Aberdeen Press and Journal, 26/9/97.
- "Vets call for Boar Hunt to halt Deadly Disease", Daily Telegraph, 16/6/97.
- "Plague of pigs strips Germany bare", New Scientist 5/10/96