Ingolf König-Jablonski / dpa / alliance photo via Getty Images
At first glance, swimmers off the Baltic coast of Germany thought that the creature swimming towards them was a dog. A sailor saw the animal, miles away from the shore in the open sea, and thought it was a porpoise. But they are all wrong. It is a wild boar.
The animal swims for hours. From where? No one knows, but judging from a video taken of its arrival in mid-August, it does not seem to be tired of traveling.
After paddling ashore on Schönhagen beach in northern Germany, the pig tried to bite a man, defending himself with a shovel, before it burst away from hordes of panicked sunbathers.
The episode was just the latest in a summer when wild boars repeatedly appeared, leading to viral photos and videos, which shared their antics millions of times.
The Central European pig has rough hair, small eyes and sharp teeth connected to the strong jaw. Wild pig subspecies are native to Germany, and when dealt with by humans, know that it hurts and sometimes kills.
This reputation seems to have been forgotten in early August, when a female pig was photographed with her two piglets while a laptop was snatched from a man in a bag in Teufelssee, or Devil’s Lake, in Berlin, which prompted men to run to them. The scene made the man’s clothes even more ridiculous: he was wearing nothing. The lake is famous for its bare sunbathers.
The photos went viral, and German animal rights activist Sonja Wende was one of millions who clicked on them. (The man was able to return his laptop).
“It’s a funny situation, where you have this weird little boar grabbing this laptop and running around the beach, and this naked guy chases him and tries his best to get his laptop back,” he said. by Wende. “There is no harm to anyone, except everything is just a blast and there is a lot of fun.”
The fun did not last long. The following week, tourists from all over the region entered the lake to catch a glimpse of the pig, nicknamed Elsa, and her crazy piglets. The crowd has led animal experts to worry that boars will soon be relying on humans for food, which could endanger their lives – and the safety of humans.
Experts are concerned about boars contracting African Swine Fever from eating infected pigs to garbage left behind by humans. If that happened, it would probably lead to an outbreak in Germany. There have been outbreaks in Poland over the past year.
“The situation got worse as more people came to see them and they were getting closer to the animals,” recalls Marc Franusch of the Berlin Forestry Commission. “And then a lot of them eat food and they think it’s a sign of having a heart for wild boars if we bring them food. But it’s the opposite.”
So many came to see the boars, Franusch said, that at one time they surrounded Elsa and her piglets in a tight circle, a situation in which the mother pig could easily be persuaded to attack someone.
“So we were forced to take a position, because we were responsible around,” he says.
A colleague of his in the Forestry Commission warns that authorities could kill Elsa and her piglets if the animals continue to depend on humans for food. When food becomes difficult, boars can attack people to get it.
The commission has no specific plans to kill Elsa and her son, Franusch said. But she worries about what will happen in the fall, when fewer people visit the lake and when she – and especially her piglets – will have to find their own food.
“They are used to looking for food in the surroundings[s] of people. They can’t find the necessary food in the forest area alone, “he said. They did not learn it. “
Franusch said that as winter approaches, Elsa and her piglets will wander out of the woods into the suburbs of Berlin. They would find food in the trash, a situation he said would not end well for them.
But many Berliners are struggling with the forest commission’s stance on Elsa. “I think the answer to this problem is to have a peaceful coexistence,” said Wende, who led a protest in mid-August about 30 people before the forest commission to save the boar.
Wende urged tourists to stop feeding the boars and keep their distance. But it may be too late.
A video posted on Twitter in late August captures moments from apparently Elsa and her two piglets betraying at a children’s birthday party near Teufelssee. Freelance journalist Charlie Hawley filmed the video, showing children fleeing or jumping into trees. Elsa and her piglets eat everything they see.
“I think he first took a piece of the birthday cake, and then he started following the celebration of candy-filled bags that the kids owned,” Hawley said. “Some of the kids were screaming and enjoying it. Most of the kids, though, started crying when they ate their party bags full of sweets, one after another.”
Hawley said the boars rushed in before returning to eat as much cake and candy as possible.
At the end of the day, their stomachs are full of human sweet food, Elsa the pig and her piglets sleeping somewhere in the woods, probably near Teufelssee. And they waited for the people – including their food, trash, their optional beaches and their birthday parties – to return.
Esme Nicholson contributed to this report.