Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wildlife in the City

What to do when the city starts to stink in the summer heat, as Berlin with its century-old sewers tends to do: Head for the park. What not to do: Make a beeline for the smelliest part in town.

Of course, that's just what we did today. We biked to the Jungfernheide, a big wooded park in the northwest of the city, to visit the wild pigs - Wildschweine - which are so strange and fascinating that we do this every time we're in Berlin.

The ground is bare dirt because they spend most of their time snuffling around in it or - when they want to prettify themselves - bathing in it.

They stop snuffling only when visitors offer to feed them - which, luckily for them, seems to be a pretty constant gig. This pig is showing off her talent at standing on her trotters while my husband feeds her raw spaghetti, their snack of choice.

The adults are not beauties. They have improbably adorable babies, though. We saw about a half-dozen nearly newborn piglets ("Frischlinge") but they were running so fast, my camera didn't stand a chance. (There actually shouldn't be any newborns so late in the year, but these Wildschweine seem to be quite overcrowded in their quarters. Either they're no longer closely managed due to Berlin's financial woes, or someone decided that surplus pigs could be sold to local restaurants at an easy profit.)

Here's what the Frischlinge look like when they're several months old and ready to start competing (mostly unsuccessfully) for their share of spaghetti. Their markings are so cool; I don't know of any other critters that have lengthwise stripes.

On the long bike ride home, we saw a group of five bunnies who were obviously being fed by humans, because they were about two yards from the bike path, yet they didn't flee. No, they weren't as unusual as the Wildschweine - but at least they smelled blessedly neutral.

All photos by me, Sungold. The Wildschweine don't like to hold still and the park is deeply shaded, so although I took dozens of photos, even the best are a bit blurry.

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