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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Meet the real life Pumbaa: House-trained warthog is raised as one of the family… and sleeps on the sofa every night

-Watches telly, eats marshmallows and pedigree chums
-'Some people say my Org is ugly, but he's a darling to have around the house'

By Stuart Maclean

A Warthog might not be every housewife's first choice of pet - but Erika Tempel's beloved Org is firmly part of the family.

The two-year-old wild pig has the run of her home, tucks into dinners of dog food and sleeps every night under a blanket on her sofa.

The lucky animal is treated to his cosy existence after Erika adopted and hand-raised him when he was orphaned as a baby.

Hogs and kisses: Tempel with her house-trained pet warthog Org at their home in South Africa

Erika, 50, who lives in South Africa, said: 'Some people think I'm crazy having a pet warthog, but Org is really loveable and an absolute darling to have around the house.

'We got him as a baby when one of the neighbours brought him in after his mother was killed.

'He was so tiny and vulnerable, and I nursed him by hand until he was old enough to be by himself.

'He lived in our front room, and when he was big enough I used to take him on long walks outside so he could get used to his natural surroundings.

Pucker up: Erika gives her pet a goodnight kiss

Who's a boar? Erica's hog takes up most of the sofa

'I always imagined he would go back and live in the wild again, but he obviously liked it too much with us.'

Org is now firmly settled at the rural home Erika shares with her husband Hendrik, also 50.

The warthog weighed just a few pounds when they adopted him in November 2008 but has since grown to around 12 stone.

A helping ham: Org is bottle fed as an orphaned youngster

He now munches his way through at least two kilograms of Pedigree dog food each evening, served up for him in the kitchen from a dog bowl.

And on top of that he devours a pile of daily treats including dried sweetcorn kernels, ginger biscuits, marshmallows and his favourite Ferrero Rocher chocolates.

By day tourist managers Erika and Hendrik let Org roam freely outside in the private Fahad game reserve which they run in South Africa's northern Limpopo province.

But the loyal animal returns to their home each evening at dusk for his dinner and to relax in front of the television.

Erika, a mother of three, said: 'He has the best of both worlds because he goes out and spends the day with the other warthogs but almost always comes home when it gets dark.

'We feed him and cuddle him, sometimes we clean him, and then he goes to sleep on the sofa.

'He's getting really big these days and his tusks are sharp so we have had to recover the sofas with a tough canvas lining or they would get ripped apart.

'We also have to keep an eye on him because if we leave him unattended he can open the door to the kitchen and empty all the cupboards looking for food.

'Sometime we think he thinks he's a dog because he gets really affectionate and likes to be loved.

'I often share a sofa with him when we watch TV. We'll snuggle under a blanket as he likes to be close to me.

Favourite spot: Erika's Jack Russell doesn't stand a chance as the warthog settles down for the night
'Sometimes he'll take the whole sofa for himself and Hendrik and I will sit on the floor.'

Org has also become a firm friend with the couple's other pets, which include a pair of parrots and a lively Jack Russell named Cody.

Erika, who also runs a jewellery design business, said: "You might not imagine that a warthog and a Jack Russell would get on but they are the best of friends.

'Cody often perches himself on Org's back when he's sleeping, and although they sometimes fight over the food it's always good natured.'

She added: 'We have never forced him to stay here but he keeps coming back.

'It is great that he has time outside and now that he has reached maturity, he has found himself a girlfriend and this year will probably become a father.

'But we're delighted that he likes to come home every day, and people are always amazed when they see him sitting on the sofa.

'We have three daughters, and they all get on brilliantly with Org too. He really feels like part of the family now.

'I know some people might look at my Org and think he's ugly, but he's actually really loving and affectionate.

'They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I think he's gorgeous.'



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