“They give them beer, rum, ride on them”: Tourists may be killing the adorable swimming pigs of the Bahamas

Sea sty.
Sea sty.
Image: Courtesy Bahamas Ministry of Tourism
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The swimming pigs of the Bahamas are a famous and popular tourist attraction. But at least seven of the animals suddenly died and it seems food poisoning may be to blame.

“The pigs were given the wrong food,” Wayde Nixon, an owner of one of the pigs, told the Nassau Guardian. About 15 are said to still be alive.

The swimming pigs, which freely roam on the uninhabited island of Big Major Cay in Exuma, are popular with tourists. Recent visitors included comedian Amy Schumer and Donald Trump Jr., the US president’s son. The attraction to the friendly animals is understandable. Even the Bahamas’ Ministry of Tourism touts its role in promoting the island of pigs. “We’ve already introduced thousands of visitors to ‘Pig Beach’, and we look forward to welcoming thousands more in the years to come,” it says on its website.

It isn’t clear how the animals got to the island, but the local government says popular lore says the pigs swam to safety after a shipwreck, or were meant to be a meal for sailors that had dropped them off there.

But there’s a downside to their popularity. “Right now, it’s blowing out of proportion with people, anybody, bringing food there, anybody doing what they [want to] do,” said Nixon. ”We have people coming there giving the pigs beer, rum, riding on top of them, all kinds of stuff.”

The incident is also part of a trend of tourism authorities and companies rethinking how much humans should interact with animals. The National Marine Fisheries Service proposed last year a ban on swimming tours with dolphins, after finding that daylight-hour tours were upsetting the animals’ sleep cycles. And last October, online review site TripAdvisor said it would stop selling tours where humans come into contact with endangered or wild animals.

Following the recent death of those pigs, the Caribbean nation’s minister of agriculture and marine resources said the government plans to ban feeding the pigs. The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism did not immediately respond to a request for comment as to the cause of their deaths.