When pigs float

October 15, 2018

If you’re waiting to fulfill any life goals “until pigs fly,” maybe you should know that they already are “floating.” Yes, a colony of pigs is floating, swimming, and paddling in the warm waters off southeast Nassau, according to an October 9 report by CNN.

The hog heaven is located on the sandy coastlines of the Exumas—an archipelago of 365 cays and islands. And the pigs who live there have learned that when tourists approach in small boats, food and treats come with them. The swine swim out to meet the boats and, once the visitors arrive at Big Major Cay, the tourists can disembark and interact with the pigs in the warm water or on the beach.

The juxtaposition of pigs and paradise makes for epic and endearing photographs and selfies. As a result, CNN says, the oinkers collectively have established themselves as a social media sensation—achieving Kardashian-style fame practically overnight.

There are about 20 pigs and piglets living the good life on the beach. How and when did they arrive?  Nobody knows for sure. Big Major Cay is uninhabited and the pigs are not native to the island. According to local folklore, they could have paddled there from a nearby shipwreck. But the more likely story is that residents of neighboring islands put them in the secluded spot intentionally— to proliferate and please visitors (and in the past, to serve as a source of pork when needed).

David Hocher, owner of the Staniel Cay Yacht Club on neighboring Staniel Cay, told CNN that Big Major has another critical resource: fresh water. “Not every island around here has fresh water like Big Major,” says Hocher, who grew up on Staniel Cay. “That island is perfectly set up to support and sustain life.”

Most of the pigs have names. Some, such as Cinnamon and Ginger, were named for their color patterns. Others, such as Raleigh, Roosevelt, and Shirley, were named after friends and ancestors. The three large mother pigs were named after matriarchs from Staniel Cay: Blanche, Maggie and Diane.

And earlier this year, local volunteers formed the Official Swimming Pigs Association, a nonprofit devoted to caring for the pigs. The group makes sure the pigs always have fresh water, which they store in three 150-gallon drums at the center of the island. Volunteers also built separate pens for piglets, as well as for animals who are ill and need medical treatment. A veterinarian from Nassau provides those services.

Perhaps the most important job for volunteers is to monitor the pigs’ diet, so that it includes healthy meals, in addition to the treats brought by the tourists. They do this by mixing vitamins with the water and providing the animals with food pellets to supplement the berries and other items the pigs forage on their own.

Research contact: @mattvillano

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