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  Inside Out - South: Monday July 7, 2003


Wild boar
The south is the only place in Britain that is home to wild boar

Take a walk through woodland in southern England and you could be in for a big surprise - one weighing up to 150 kilos in fact! For the south is the only area in Britain where wild boar can be seen. Chris Packham goes on the trail of these elusive animals.

Wild boar are native to Britain but are believed to have became extinct around the end of the thirteenth century due to overhunting and the clearing of woodland.

However animals that escaped from farms are now thriving in areas of Sussex, Kent and Dorset.

To track these secretive animals Inside Out has sought the help of two of the country's top experts.

Shy and retiring

Dr Martin Goulding
Dr Martin Goulding has written the first book on wild boar in Britain and Inside Out is giving you the chance to win a copy

Scientist Dr Martin Goulding has studied wild boar in the south for six years and is the author of the first book on wild boar in Britain.

Wild boar have a fearsome reputation but Dr Goulding says this is largely unfounded.

"They're very shy, retiring animals and they don't like disturbance," explains Dr Goulding.

"They'll run away from human contact and they know we're in the woods before we know they're about."

Inside Out's search begins in a remote block of Sussex woodland where Dr Goulding shows Chris typical signs of wild boar including tracks, rubbing posts, wallows and large arch shaped holes in woodland fences.

Even after six years Dr Goulding remains fascinated by them and says from a distance the fully gown males resemble small buffalo.

"They're very charismatic and steeped in history, legends and folklore," says Dr Goulding.

"They've been around in this country up until the last 700 years and are prominent in heraldic signs and celtic mythology."

Life's a boar

Young Wild boar
Sows guard each others piglets allowing the mother time to feed

They have an interesting lifestyle too.

Largely nocturnal, they live in small highly organised social groups with individuals playing the role of teachers, guards and scouts.

Female wild boar, called sows, build nests in dense woodland in which they give birth. The cute looking striped piglets remain in the nest for at least two weeks.

When the sow rejoins the group other sows take turns to guard her piglets while she feeds.

To obtain pictures of boar in the wild, Inside Out turns to naturalist Derek Harman, one of the first people to film them in Sussex.

He puts food down at the same spot for weeks to attract the boar to our cameras.

It allows Inside Out to get the first professional pictures of these secretive animals at such close quarters.

Born to be wild

Wild boar with a magpie on its back
Derek Harman helped Inside Out get unique images of these animals in the wild

Derek admits that at first he wasn't pleased to discover that boar were roaming free in Sussex as he thought they'd pose a threat to farmers' crops.

Now he's appalled that some poachers and farmers are trapping or shooting sows even when they are pregnant or have young.

He believes they should be granted legal protection in the form of a closed season when it would be illegal to trap or shoot them.

After years watching and filming them they have won his respect.

"The fact that everyone's hand was turned against them but they're still thriving and spreading; it must say something about their capabilities and their right to live with the rest of us," says Derek.

See also ...

BBC: Nature - Wild boar

On the rest of the web
British Wild boar
World Wildlife Fund UK
The Forestry Commission

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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