The Wild Boar from Berlin’s Teufelssee: What ever happened to “Elsa“?
In August 2020 a wild boar and her two cubs gained international fame for a few weeks. “Elsa” the mother pig stole a bag containing a laptop at a prominent nudist beach in Berlin’s Grunewald Forest. A photo taken of an elderly nudist chasing the animals was featured in BBC1, the Guardian2, New York Post3 and El Observador4. After the newly appointed head of the forestry office told newspapers5,6 that the animal would be “removed as a matter of priority” a number of different animal rights activism groups7 and petitions8 formed to save Elsa. A protest demonstration took place in front of the forestry office with a dozen participants9,10.
I went to see Elsa myself in August 2020, when she stole my backpack as well. Luckily, I didn’t have to chase her, as people helped me to retrieve my belongings. The wild animal was less “wild” than I expected. She had no instinct to flee – what is usually expected of wildlife. Instead, she seemed to know that no one would hurt her and she would get food either way: From trash or forgotten food, stolen from people’s bags, or even fed by humans to lure them closer or to drive them away. Is this the human-wildlife-reletionship we want? We are responsible the habituation of this boar.
While there are roughly 2.000 wild boars shot in Berlin each year11, the question arises why specifically one wild boar – one that endangers humans, pets and their belongings – should be spared? An explanation could be that compared to the other 600.000-800.000 wild boars shot every year in Germany11, this specific one was given a name and persona: Elsa, the mother, the provider to her cubs, the “cheeky but peaceful sow of Teufelssee”8. This boar became more personalized, and citizens, especially those living in cities, came face to face with wildlife and were confronted with the fact that wild boars are hunted. Her fame was short lived. The interest declined. No more articles, no more protests. Currently, there are no wild boars at Teufelssee. Most likely, we will never know what happened to Elsa and her cubs. However, you can now buy her and her chaser as figures for model train worlds – maybe that’s her legacy12.
Author: Simon Moesch