Several of the famous swimming pigs that draw tourists to the Bahamas’ Big Major Cay were found dead over the weekend from an undetermined cause.
Wayde Nixon, one of the pigs’ owners, told the Nassau Guardian that seven of the pigs had died, and about 15 were still alive.
“The pigs were given the wrong food,” Nixon told the news outlet. He didn’t specify who gave the passel of pigs the food, or what it was. But he did say there have been problems with tourists acting inappropriately.
“Right now, it’s blowing out of proportion with people, anybody bringing food there, anybody doing what they [want to] do,” Nixon said. “We have people coming there giving the pigs beer, rum, riding on top of them ― all kind of stuff.”
Kim Aranha, president of the Bahamas Humane Society, told Tribune 242 it’s not clear if the pigs’ deaths were accidental or intentional.
“It could just be a horrible accident, where they ate something poisonous,” Aranha said. “It could be malicious, but I don’t really see why someone would go out of their way to hurt those lovely animals.”
The results of a humane society investigation into the deaths will be available by next week, according to Tribune 242.
As a result of the deaths, tourists will no longer be permitted to feed the pigs, though they will still be able to visit them, V. Alfred Gray, minister of agriculture and marine resources, told the Nassau Guardian.
Popular legend attributes the pigs’ presence on the island to sailors who abandoned them, or to pigs swimming to the island after a shipwreck.
But Nixon and his business partner, Don Rolle, have told multiple media outlets that they brought a few pigs to the island in the 1990s in a scheme to start a farm. That failed, but the charm of free-roaming, swimming pigs ended up being a major tourist attraction.
The world-famous pigs have been repeatedly celebrated in the media. However, some animal advocates have expressed concern for the well-being of the pigs at Big Major Cay.
There are at least two islands in the Bahamas where swimming pigs are present. The widely followed Instagram account “The Swimming Pigs” clarified on Saturday that the pigs they feature are not from Big Major Cay. Those pigs are from White Bay Cay, another island that is also a popular tourist destination.
This story has been updated to clarify that there are at least two different islands with swimming pigs, and to remove a reference to “The Bachelor.” The Huffington Post has not been able to confirm with ABC where the reality show filmed its episode featuring pigs.