Pig Beach: The Swimming Pig’s Paradise
Summer is finally here! That’s right folks. Summer means vacation for most and for most, vacation (whether it be a week or a day) is time to relish that prime beach warm weather. So, how can you make the most of your beach experience? Pack your sunscreen (the hopeful Kryptonite to UV rays or a bad sunburn) and shades to check out these activities for a time you’ll be sure to remember:
*And swimming with pigs?
That’s right –Wilbur and his friends don’t always say coped up on a farm or rough it out in the forest as bearded pigs do. Some pigs receive the package deal: vacation for life in the Bahamas on Big Major Cay, commonly referred to as Pig Beach (“Beach Babe;” Chamings; Official Home). Who would’ve thought that there would be pigs on an island? Perhaps the writers of Spy Kids 2: Islands of Lost Dreams, but those pigs could fly. These little beach-going swine lucked out considering they may have been destined to become someone’s bacon. There are several theories as to how the pigs came to inhabit the uninhabited island of Big Major Cay in the early 2000’s (Chamings). Stories range from sailors dropping the pigs off on the island to reproduce then be eaten, a shipwreck near the island allowing the pigs to survive, the pigs escaping from another island, or even a ploy to attract more tourists to the area (Chamings; Greaves-Gabbadon; “Official Home”). However it came to be, there are about 20 pigs and piglets enjoying the Caribbean weather all year long (Chamings; Greaves-Gabbadon; “Official Home”).
Surprisingly, this is not the first case of pigs appearing on an island. In the early 1800’s, wild pigs were found on Auckland Island –part of a New Zealand island group–, possibly brought to the island as a food source for sailors and castaways (“Auckland Island Pigs;” Challies). Unlike the pigs on Big Major Cay, resembling domesticated pigs, the pigs on Auckland Island adopted traits of feral pigs when adapting to their surroundings (“Auckland Island Pigs”). But that’s a whole other story. In order to survive on their private island, the Bahama pigs are pampered by passing ships who donate their excess food and by visitors who bring along goodies (“Beach Babe;” “Official Home”). Blessed with three freshwater springs (“Official Home”), the pigs have all they need to sit back and relax in the beach perfect sun. These pigs have adjusted well to the tropics and have gained much popularity inspiring both a book and a documentary. So, if you happen to be visiting the Exumas –sure, pass by a few celebrities’ private islands, but make sure you get your selfie with the swimming pigs!
Sea Pigs: The Creatures Underwater
It’s one thing for pigs to live on an island, but underwater? Not technically a “pig,” sea pigs (scientifically categorized under the genus, or subfamily, Scotoplanes) are a type of sea cucumber (Mah; McCulley). These little creatures, only growing to about 4 to 6 inches long, are nicknamed sea pigs based on their plump, pink bodies (Mah). Unlike the Bahama Babes, sea pigs prefer colder regions, living in the deep abyss of the ocean –as far as 3.7 miles under the ocean’s surface (McCulley); however, in some regions, such as Antarctica, sea pigs don’t have to travel so deep to cool off (McCulley). It’s difficult to catch these sea pigs in action since they thrive so far under the ocean’s surface –crawling around in their “herds” that can range from hundreds to thousands (Mah; McCulley)–, but they are more common than the tropical pigs and can be found all over the ocean floor (Mah; McCulley)! In terms of chowing down, sea pigs eat the scrapes of whatever floats down and collects on the ocean floor, making these creatures deposit feeders (Mah; McCulley). In a sense, the sea pigs and swimming pigs of the Bahamas aren’t really picky when it comes to meals. The sea pigs use their tentacle mouths when eating (Mah). So think of the tentacle guy –Captain Davy Jones– from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, but with smaller tentacles surrounding an opening rather than making a beard. That’s kind of what a sea pig’s mouth looks like. These creatures can come off a little creepy, but many find them to be cute!
With both land and sea covered, it is only a matter of time before our pig friends take flight! But while we wait on that (and I wouldn’t hold your breath!), there is still so much more to learn about these creatures, both the sea pigs and how the pigs of the Bahamas were able to adapt to the different climate. Hopefully overtime, we’ll be able to learn more about these amazingly wicked creatures: the pigs of water!
“Auckland Island Pigs: A Rare Bread of New Zealand Origin.” New Zealand Rare Breeds. Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand Incorporated, n.d. Web. 26 Jun. 2015.
“Beach Babe: The happy pigs that love to swim in the Caribbean (and we’re not telling porkies).” Daily Mail.com. Associate Newspapers Ltd, 25 Jan. 2011. Web. 25 Jun. 2015.
Challies, C. N. “Feral pigs (sus scrofa) on Auckland Island: Status, and effects on vegetation and nesting sea birds.” New Zealand Journal of Zoology: 2.4, 479-490. Taylor & Francis, 1975. Web. 26 Jun. 2015.
Chamings, Andrew Wallace. “A Bay of Actual Pigs: A fascinating zoological experiment unfolds near the Bahamas.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic Monthly Group, 28 Aug. 2013. Web. 25 Jun. 2015.
Feature Photo: Photo courtesy of Trent from the Nina Lu via cdorobek on Wikimedia Commons; originally posted on Flickr.com by Froggerlaura. <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vorobek_Bahamas_-_swimming_pigs.jpg>
Photo One: Photo courtesy of Trent from the Nina Lu via cdorobek on Wikimedia Commons; originally posted on Flickr.com. <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pigs_on_the_beach.jpg>
Photo Two: Photo courtesy of Larsen9236 on Pixabay. <https://pixabay.com/en/staniel-cay-swimming-pig-seagull-171908/>