The Pig Whisperer of Green Turtle Cay

z IMG_9137 222You won’t find it on any map, but Piggyville is fast becoming a favourite day-trip destination for Abaco visitors. Named for the feral pigs set loose there in recent years, Piggyville is located on tiny No Name Cay, just south of Green Turtle Cay.

Though wild hogs certainly exist on the Abaco mainland, they’re far less common on the cays. So how did these pigs get to No Name Cay? I’ve heard several theories around Green Turtle, but nobody knows (or will admit to knowing) for sure.

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Craig and Jan Russell

A couple of years ago, Green Turtle Cay resident and long-time animal lover Craig Russell began hearing stories about pigs on No Name Cay. About a year ago, he went to see them for himself. Recognizing that the animals had limited access to food and fresh water, Craig (often accompanied by his wife, Jan) began making twice-weekly trips to No Name to care for them.

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Earlier this month, Craig and Jan invited me to come along on one of their trips. Watching Craig interact with the pigs, its easy to understand why some Green Turtle Cay locals refer to him as the Pig Whisperer. He has organized the beach where the pigs congregate, creating separate areas (and providing containers for) for food and fresh water, and posting signs for visitors.

As soon as we arrived at the beach, Craig sought out each of the six pigs — a sow and five piglets — to ensure all were healthy and accounted for. Several times during our visit, I watched him seek out the runt to be sure she got her share of food and water, and to treat her to an extra apple or corn cob.

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A new Piggyville sign, made for Craig and the pigs by local children.

Perhaps due to the popularity of their swimming cousins in Exuma, the pigs on No Name Cay have become somewhat of a tourist attraction. In the hour or so we were there, at least seven different boatloads of visitors pulled up to visit with, feed and photograph the pigs!

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Though looking after the pigs costs Craig in terms of fuel and boat maintenance — not to mention his time — he says the only help he really needs is contributions of food and water.

Here’s how you can help care for the pigs of No Name Cay:

  • Bring food and fresh water directly to Piggyville. According to a Berryman Institute report I found online, feral pigs are “opportunistic omnivores.” They’ll eat virtually anything – vegetation, meat, eggs, insects, etc. Craig says the No Name Cay pigs don’t eat onions or meat with bones (boneless is fine), and they’re not terribly fond of citrus fruit. However, they love bananas, apples, grapes, corn and carrots. (For obvious reasons, be sure all food is relatively fresh and water is clean.)z IMG_9071 222
  • Plan your Piggyville visit during off-peak times. At this time of year, fewer people visit No Name Cay mid-week than on weekends, and hardly anyone visits during the fall and winter. These are the times when Craig and the pigs could most use a little help.
  • While we were on No Name Cay, I noticed that though most people who came to see the pigs brought food, few if any brought fresh water. Please consider bringing along a gallon or two when you visit. Containers for fresh water are located perhaps 30 feet or so left (south) of the food area.

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  • Food, water or cash donations can be dropped off at Craig’s home on Green Turtle Cay (second house north of Abaco Yacht Services, the same side of the street as the boat yard, with a white picket fence.)
  • If you own or work for a restaurant or food store on the Abaco mainland or the cays, please consider donating over-ripe produce, leftover meat, baked goods or other food scraps to the pigs.
  • Forward a link to this story to anyone you think might be able to help, and encourage them to lend a hand.

To assist in other ways (corporate support, anyone…?), or to learn more about the No Name Cay pigs, drop me an email and I’ll forward Craig’s contact info to you.

One final but important note. Similar to the sharks, rays and barracudas we encounter in Abaco, the No Name pigs are wild creatures. Though unlikely to bite or attack without provocation, they’re certainly capable of doing so. As such, they should be approached with caution and common sense.