Phacochoerus aethiopicus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Suidae

Scientific Name: Phacochoerus aethiopicus
Species Authority: (Pallas, 1766)
Common Name(s):
English Desert Warthog, Somali Warthog, Cape Warthog
French Phacochère du désert
Aper aethiopicus Pallas, 1766
Taxonomic Notes:

Two subspecies are recognised: the Cape Warthog, Phacochoerus aethiopicus aethiopicus, endemic to South Africa, became extinct in the 1870s (d'Huart and Grubb 2001, Grubb and d’Huart 2010); the Somali Warthog, P. a. delamerei, occurs in Kenya and the Horn of Africa. See Grubb and d’Huart (2010) for a detailed historic overview of the classification of Phacochoerus.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-12-08
Assessor(s): de Jong, Y.A., Butynski, T.M. & d'Huart, J.-P.
Reviewer(s): Meijaard, E.

Listed as Least Concern as this species is widespread, often locally abundant, and has a high reproductive rate. Nonetheless, most populations seem to be in decline over much of the geographic range.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

The Somali Warthog is distributed east of the Eastern (Gregory) Rift Valley in the Horn of Africa and Kenya. It is known to occur in north and south Somalia, southeast and south Ethiopia, and central, east, southeast, and extreme north Kenya (d'Huart and Grubb 2001, Culverwell et al. 2008, De Jong et al. 2009, De Jong and Butynski 2014, De Jong et al. in prep.). Probably present over almost all of Somalia, but information to support this opinion is lacking. Most records are between about sea level to 1,000 m asl. Highest altitudinal record is 1,690 m asl (north Somalia; D. Mallon pers. comm.). Extent of occurrence, as currently known, is c. 320,000 km2 (De Jong et al. in prep.). Actual extent of occurrence is probably much greater than this.

Sympatric with the Common Warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) in parts of north Somalia, and in parts of central, east, and southeast Kenya (De Jong and Butynski 2014, De Jong et al. in prep.).

The Cape Warthog is distributed in South Africa, southeast former Cape Province and, apparently, in adjacent parts of KwaZulu-Natal. Extinct since the 1870s (d'Huart and Grubb 2001, Grubb and d'Huart 2010).

Countries occurrence:
Ethiopia; Kenya; Somalia
Regionally extinct:
South Africa
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):1690
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


P. aethiopicus occurs at low densities over most of its range. It is locally abundant where there is green grass and water, sometimes near small, remote, villages and lodges (Grubb and d'Huart 2010; T. Butynski, Y. de Jong, J. Culverwell, and J. King pers. obs.). In Ethiopia, common in the Ogaden region in aggregations of up to 30 individuals in bushland around permanent wells and close to towns (Wilhelmi et al. 2004). At high density during the dry season on patches of green grass along the Ewaso N’yiro River, central Kenya (Y. de Jong and T. Butynski pers. obs.). In Kenya, relatively abundant in predominantly Islamic areas compared to predominantly Christian areas (De Leeuw et al. 2001; T. Butynski and Y. de Jong pers. obs.). High mortality in central Kenya during dry periods (H. Dufresne pers. comm.). There are large areas within the geographic range were the species is absent or at very low density.

Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

The habitat preferences of the Desert Warthog remain poorly understood (Grubb and d'Huart 2013, De Jong and Butynski 2014). Locality records, combined with several surveys in Kenya, indicate preference for low altitude semi-arid areas with sandy soils. Vegetation types range from xerophylous bush and open woodland, to sub-desert steppe. Absent from forest. (d'Huart and Grubb 2001, Grubb and d'Huart 2013, De Jong and Butynski 2014, De Jong et al. in prep.). Typically avoids hilly terrain and areas with a mean annual rainfall <100 mm or >750 mm (Grubb and d'Huart 2013, De Jong et al. in prep.). Mainly occupies areas with mean annual temperature >20°C, but in north Somalia occurs where mean annual temperature is as low as about 16 °C (De Jong et al. in prep.). The Desert Warthog is dependent on surface water, nutritious grass, shade, and shelter (Grubb and d'Huart 2010, T. Butynski and Y. de Jong pers. obs.). It grazes predominantly on nutritious grasses (Nyafu 2009, Y. de Jong and T. Butynski pers. obs.). The diet is poorly known, but comprised of grass leaves, bulbs, and tubers (De Jong and Butynski 2014), and expected to include rhizomes, fruits, invertebrates, and leaves from forbs and woody plants (T. Butynski, J.P. d’Huart and Y. de Jong pers. obs.).

Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade:

The species is hunted by people (mainly non-Muslims) (De Leeuw et al. 2001, Wilhelmi et al. 2004, De Jong and Butynski 2014). The larger tusks are traded as souvenirs in Somalia (Fagotto 1985) and sometimes exported.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

The Desert Warthog is vulnerable to climatic extremes (including drought, high rainfall, low temperature), disease (including rinderpest), and predation. The main threats are human-caused habitat degradation, loss and fragmentation, competition with livestock for water and food, and hunting by people (mainly non-Muslims) (De Leeuw et al. 2001, Wilhelmi et al. 2004, De Jong and Butynski 2014). Limited drinking water and food appear to keep populations at low density in central Kenya (mean annual rainfall <500 mm), and probably elsewhere. Greatly increased human and livestock populations have led to declines and extirpations in recent decades in central Kenya; competition for water and food has become intense as the region is severely over-stocked with livestock, both outside and inside officially protected areas (De Jong and Butynski 2014, A. Caron pers. comm.). The larger tusks are traded as souvenirs in Somalia (Fagotto 1985) and sometimes exported. The current status of the Desert Warthog in Somalia and Ethiopia is unknown.

The Desert Warthog occurs in at least 10 protected areas in Kenya (Meru National Park, Tsavo East National Park, Tsavo West National Park, Samburu Nature Reserve, Buffalo Springs Nature Reserve, Shaba Nature Reserve, Losai Nature Reserve, Arawale Nature Reserve, Dodori Nature Reserve, Boni Nature Reserve), at least one protected area in Somalia (Hargeisa National Park), and at least one protected areas in Ethiopia (Yabelo Wildlife Sanctuary) (d'Huart and Grubb 2001, Culverwell et al. 2008, Grubb and d'Huart 2010, De Jong and Butynski 2014, De Jong et al. in prep.). Likely present in Kora National Park and Tana River Primate NR in Kenya, and in Daallo Mountain National Park, Lag Badana National Park, and Kismayo National Park in Somalia (De Jong et al. in prep). All of the protected areas in Kenya where the Desert Warthog occurs are affected by poaching of animals and wood products, invasions by people and their livestock, and insecurity (De Jong and Butynski 2014, De Jong et al. in prep.). This is likely to also be the case in Ethiopia and Somalia.


Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The Desert Warthog is a largely unstudied species for which many more field surveys are needed to determine geographic limits, area of occupancy, abundance, and the impacts of various human activities (particularly livestock raising) on distribution and abundance. Information on habitat preference, habitat limits, ecology, and behaviour are also needed.

Errata [top]

Errata reason: Correction to the order of the Assessor names.

Citation: de Jong, Y.A., Butynski, T.M. & d'Huart, J.-P. 2016. Phacochoerus aethiopicus. (errata version published in 2016) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T41767A99376685. . Downloaded on 19 January 2017.
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