Warthogs Visit Mongooses for Spa Treatments

By Elizabeth Preston | March 11, 2016 2:13 pm


Did you know there’s a newsletter entirely about pigs, peccaries and hippos? It’s published twice a year by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The newsletter used to be called the Asian Wild Pig News, until its name was changed to the more poetic Suiform Soundings. 

Anyway, if you had a subscription, you would have read recently about an unusual group of warthogs. In a national park in Uganda, the warthogs have developed a very friendly relationship with local mongooses. The warthogs treat the mongooses like their own personal spa. In return, the mongooses get to eat their fill of delicious ticks.

Andrew Plumptre, a conservation biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, wrote about the phenomenon in the latest issue of Suiform Soundings. Both the mongooses and warthogs in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park are used to having people around, thanks to scientists and tourists. So humans can get close enough to observe behaviors they might not be able to see otherwise—in this case, the mongoose spa.

Warthogs in the park will walk up to a group of mongooses, then plop themselves down in the dirt and lift up their legs. When this happens, the mongooses swarm the giant, tusked pig and nibble all the ticks out of its hair.

The BBC captured a delightful video of a blissed-out-looking warthog letting mongooses crawl all over it:

“I think this is one of the few cases of a mammal grooming another mammal species,” Plumptre writes. He also wonders whether the behavior is unique to this park, or happens in hidden parts of the wild too. Perhaps an answer will come in another month’s newsletter.

Image by A. Plumptre.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: friends, top posts, weird animals
MORE ABOUT: Animals, Ecology


Like the wily and many-armed cephalopod, Inkfish reaches into the far corners of science news and brings you back surprises (and the occasional sea creature). The ink is virtual but the research is real.

About Elizabeth Preston

Elizabeth Preston is a science writer whose articles have appeared in publications including Slate, Nautilus, and National Geographic. She's also the former editor of the children's science magazine Muse, where she still writes in the voice of a know-it-all bovine. She lives in Massachusetts. Read more and see her other writing here.


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