(published in Savvy Magazine, September 2013)
My husband visited the village of Okaihau the other day. He was walking past the local foodmarket when he heard a terrible commotion of squealing and shouting, and two little pigs emerged from the shop followed closely by an angry woman shaking a broom. The pigs, denied their shopping experience, ran off in search of more mischief.
This reminded me of my pig-herding experience when we first arrived in New Zealand. On our way to the beach one day, we came across two small, black pigs at a quiet junction. One was delightfully chewing on a dead sparrow. Worried the escaped pigs would get run over, we stopped and I tried to herd them into their enclosure. They looked at me curiously, grunted and stood their ground. I coaxed, stamped, waved my arms and clapped my hands, but they weren’t moving for anything. Maybe I would have had more luck with a broom.
After some minutes of trying to save the little piggies’ bacon, I realised that, not only was there no enclosure, but I was being watched with great amusement by passers-by. They’d even parked their cars up to watch the spectacle. The pigs were, of course, feral pigs. Part of a huge population roaming New Zealand, estimated at 40 pigs per square kilometre of bush. In the 1940’s there were 123 per square kilometre, so those registered 20,000 pig hunters must be doing a good job at keeping the numbers down.
I sometimes think of my two little pigs and wonder what they’re up to. Has a hunter found them, or are they still scampering across the countryside, afraid of no one? Maybe, given the development at Okaihau Foodmarket, I’ll come across them trotting around New World Supermarket, searching the freezer section for dead sparrows.