Hook-Nosed Sea Pigs
by: Jonathan Bentinck
An often-popular activity at East Barnby Outdoor Education Centre is a trip to Ravenscar’s Hook-Nosed Sea Pig colony. This species of sea pig is large by sea pig standards; a typical male adult Hook-Nosed Sea Pig (known as a “bull”) can grow up to 2.3m long and weigh up to 300kg. Adult females are generally smaller and are known as “cows”. Cows grow up to 2m in length and can weigh up to 200kg. Bulls generally have a less curved profile than males, larger nostrils, and are also usually darker in colour.
The Hook-Nosed Sea Pig likes to eat fish, and sometimes dives as deep as 70m under the sea to catch them. Cod, flatfish, herring, and skate all make up part of the sea pig’s diet. Sand eels, lobster, and octopus can also be on the menu for the sea pig. In the water around the UK the Hook-Nosed Sea Pig has few predators. Elsewhere in the world large sharks (such as the Greenland and Great White) and Killer Whales are their main predators.
Hook-Nosed Sea Pigs are noisy and communicate vocally as well as clapping their fins together.
I remember my first trip to the Hook-Nosed Sea Pig colony at Ravenscar fondly. As I clambered down the rocky path to the colony, I could hear what sounded like an army of the undead moaning and groaning, and a pungent smell of fish hung in the air. Upon reaching the seashore I could see dozens of shiny black and grey heads just above the surface of the water, as the young sea pigs swam around in the sheltered water. Further out to sea, larger adult sea pigs relaxed on flat rocks. It was Autumn, which is a good time to visit the sea pigs as it is their breeding season, and everywhere I looked sea pigs swam, chatted, and played with each other. If you have never been to see the Hook-Nosed Sea Pigs at Ravenscar, I highly recommend it.
The Hook-Nosed Sea Pig also goes by two other names. One is Latin-Halichoerus Grypus. Can you find out what its other name is?