Animals of all different shapes, sizes and species have struck up friendships — dogs and goats, rats and cats, ostriches and elephants. But have you ever heard of a Rottweiler and warthog becoming besties?
This is exactly what happened at Daktari, a bush school (an educational facility that teaches African children about nature and wildlife) and a wildlife orphanage in Hoedspruit, South Africa. Piggy was one of three baby warthogs who arrived at Daktari in 2014. A woman who lived on a local wildlife estate found the three babies living in a drain near the road. She gave the babies warm milk, but left them where they were, hoping the mother would come back.
Sadly, the mother didn’t return. So the lady wrapped the baby warthogs in blankets and took them into her house. Then she phoned Michele and Ian Merrifield, the cofounders of Daktari, and arranged for them to come pick them up.
At Daktari’s rehabilitation center, Michele and Ian gave the warthogs the best possible care, but two of the babies did survive. They didn’t expect the remaining warthog to live, based on how weak and listless he was. But with regular bottle feeds and lots of love, the last warthog, a male named Piggy, surprised everyone and survived.
Michele and Ian weren’t the only ones to give Piggy love and attention. A Rottweiler puppy named Nikita took an immediate liking to him. “Their bond grew and eventually they were inseparable,” Ian said. “They started sharing the same bed and same food.”
Nikita even took a motherly role with Piggy, despite being a puppy herself. According to Ian, Nikita would stimulate Piggy’s backside to help him do his business. This might seem gross, but it’s what Piggy’s mom would have gone if she were raising Piggy herself.
As Nikita and Piggy grew up together, they loved getting into as much trouble as possible. “They loved rolling in poo,” says Ian, “and running around the camp, or chasing each other around the patio furniture. They also loved cuddling on the couch and protecting their couch territory. Piggy was very territorial over his spot on the couch.”
Nikita’s friendship helped Piggy grow up strong, so strong he was able to be released in a local game reserve in 2015, and live the life of a wild warthog.
“Piggy adapted well to his new home,” says Ian. “Last we heard, he’s doing great. The owner of the reserve will put kitchen scraps outside the fence and Piggy comes to gorge himself.”
Piggy may no longer live at Daktari, but Nikita isn’t short of friends. Now she loves hanging out with a nyala named Chancy and the two resident jackals, Minnie and JP.
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