Monday, October 25, 2010

Serious Snoutiness

On the same day that my notebook was nearly launched into the peccary enclosure (luckily, the little kid only knocked it into a pond next to the exhibit, from which I could retrieve it intact, if slightly damp), the peccaries seemed more agitated than usual. Oh, sure, they browsed around their enclosure as they usually did, rooting around for goodies in the leaf litter—but several times they looked up as if startled, and the hair on one’s back bristled, hedgehog fashion: a sign of alarm.

But then came the truly surprising event: the two peccaries, who mere moments ago had been wandering past each other in the friendliest way possible, suddenly became aggressive, uttering loud snorting grunts and threatening each other with their tusks (so sharp that they've given the species their Spanish name, “javelina”—from “javelin”):

Then they went through the following behaviors:

Since then, I’ve done some online research on the topic, and the tusk-waving does seem to be an act of aggression, not some weird grooming or play behavior. But I don’t know what the subsequent pressing-of-snouts was about: was it a further act of measuring each other up (“My snout is bigger than your snout”)? Was it a post-hostilities make-up nuzzle? Were they just tired after their momentary anger and needed a rest?

I don’t know, and they’re unlikely to tell me (peccaries like to maintain their mystique). But I can say that within a minute of their aggressive tusk-gnashing they were back to browsing amicably.

Who knows what lurks in the minds of peccaries?

{A note: I do write all text and take all pictures. Please do not reproduce either without my permission.}

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