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Animal scavenging on pig cadavers in the Lowveld of South Africa

NCJ Number
Forensic Science International Volume: 327 Dated: October 2021
Date Published
October 2021

Since scavenging animals often scatter skeletal remains of forensic interest and leave bite marks, the current study sought to identify scavenging animals in the rural Lowveld of South Africa and to describe their scattering pattern and bite marks on bone. 


Ten pig cadavers (Sus scrofa domesticus) (40–80 kg) were placed at the Wits Rural Facility, Limpopo, South Africa during the summer and winter seasons. Motion-activated cameras recorded the scavenging. Scavenger species were identified and their behaviors, scattering pattern, and bite marks were described. Scavenging was primarily by vultures (hooded, white-backed, and lappet-faced). Marabou stork, slender and banded mongoose, genet, civet, warthog, and honey badger also actively scavenged. Vultures began to scavenge the pig cadavers after 18 hours in summer and between 26 and 28 hours in winter and skeletonized pig cadavers rapidly between 5 and 98 min. Skeletonization occurred more rapidly and diffusely in summer while winter cases were densely scattered. Overall, the scattered remains were within an area of 157.9 m2/1705.5 ft2 with a radius of 7.09 m/23.3 ft. Vultures cleaned bones thoroughly with very minimal markings - primarily nonspecific scores. The described scattering pattern and bite marks will assist in the recovery and analysis of scavenged remains. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: October 1, 2021