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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

'Ferocious' boars who roam the Forest of Dean transformed into lovable piggies who will eat out of tourists' hands

By Daily Mail Reporter

These are the heart-warming images that show a never seen side to Britain's 'ferocious' wild boar as they are stroked and even eat out of people's hands.

Photographer David Slater spent years getting up close and personal with the 'beasts' deemed so dangerous to people by the authorities they must be gunned down.

But Mr Slater claims the boar - once extinct from the UK - could be heading that way again because of poor animal management, fear propaganda, and money.

Heart-warming: Photographer David Slater, pictured, spent months getting up close and personal with the beasts deemed so dangerous to people by the authorities they must be gunned down

Studying his local population of the pigs in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, the wildlife photographer has captured the beauty of an animal so misunderstood by mankind.

Far from being ferocious Mr Slater's images show an adult wild boar being stroked by local people and even the animal being friendly with their pet dogs.

In another shot the adorably cute piglets - with their light striped coats - can be seen enjoying the forest with their protective mother.

Mr Slater admits boar can be aggressive to protect their young, just like cows or deer. On average there are two deaths and 60 injuries to people by cattle each year in the UK.

But he claims a campaign to kill the animals is going too far with even suckling mothers and piglets being shot. Whole families are also being wiped out together.

He said: 'There have been no attacks on humans in the UK to date, and this year not even a dog has been reported injured by boar 'Compare this to how many people are injured by or fear dogs, fear of wild boar is completely out of proportion.

'This is an animal welfare issue and will result in orphans dying of starvation or cold without their mother.

Up close: One boar gets close to a pensioner in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. They have a reputation for being 'ferocious'

'This situation has already happened, with one rescued baby ending up on a private farm.

'Intensive hunting like this promotes extra breeding, a sort of population rebound after a sudden crash.

'I think this is all about money as the Forestry Commission have several lucrative meat contracts for boar meat with game dealers here in the Forest of Dean, and that is why they are being excessively killed, over 100 per year.'

'Maybe 40 to 50 boar are now left in the core of the Forest, but they are nearly all juveniles.'

Mr Slater said on one occasion he befriended a female boar who was giving birth, and amazingly she allowed him to stay and photograph her.

He said her behaviour and acceptance of him proves the boars do not need to be feared because they are not a threat to well-meaning people.

He said: 'While I was with this suckling female I felt we had a real psychic connection. Maybe she called for my help?, even my dogs kept her company for hours at a time each day.

Nice to meet you: A boar is pictured being friendly with a pet dog. There are just 40 to 50 boar left in the core of the Forest, according to Mr Slater

'I got as close as three metres away with my wide angle lens, but she always gave me the look to say please keep away when she needed to.

'I think this could be the first time anyone has got photographs of a wild boar at a farrowing nest in the wild in the UK.

'It goes to show that even with her young this boar was no threat to me or my well-behaved dogs because I was no threat to her. If people respect them then there is not a problem.'

'This is a story of a large native mammal in the UK, provably beneficial to our woodlands and loved by many, being given another chance of survival and even as an attraction for wildlife tourism, but being ruined by out-of-touch authorities.'

Chief wildlife officer Ian Harvey, from the Forestry Commission for the Forest of Dean denied boar were being over culled in the woodland.

He said: 'We do not cull piglets, neither sows with dependent young at hoof or the dependent young are culled.

'There maybe specific instances where orphaned young, or the young of sows known to have been killed or seriously injured in, for example road traffic accidents have to be shot for welfare reasons.

'We do not cull animals to satisfy a meat contract, this (meat) is as a by-product of the cull and not a driver of the cull.

'The culling operation is very much a net cost operation, with venison sales simply off-setting that cost.

'With regards your comparison of boar to cows there is a key difference, cows are a large domestic animal and boar are a wild animal.

'Both have the potential to kill or seriously injure someone, at the current time we have no instances of anyone being killed by a boar, but we do have evidence of domestic dogs being killed.'

'We are not aiming to eradicate wild boar in the Forest of Dean.Our management objective is to reduce the potential for adverse interaction between the boar and people it is not to eradicate the boar.'



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