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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 3 November 2000 Issue:

Ossabaw Island Pigs

I have recently become aware of an unfortunate and very sad problem on Ossabaw Island, Georgia.

Ossabaw Island is home to a population of feral hogs who have lived on the Island, in genetic isolation, for 450 - 500 years. The pigs now living on the Island are descended from Spanish pigs either shipwrecked or purposefully left on the Island in the 16th-17th century.

While other barrier islands in the region were developed for human enterprises, Ossabaw Island remained essentially undeveloped due to the efforts of Eleanor Torrey (Sandy) West, whose family purchased the Island in the 1920's.  Sandy West donated Ossabaw Island to the State of Georgia in the 1990's.  Sandy West loves the pigs!

In May 2000, the final report of the Georgia Department of Natl. Resources Management Committee for Ossabaw Island recommended that WRD should eradicate all feral swine from Ossabaw Island (page 29) With the exception of one management subcommittee member (I Lehr Brisbin) the following recommendation received consensus; WRD should adopt a long-term goal of eliminating all feral hogs on Ossabaw Island.  Reservations concerning elimination of hogs on Ossabaw Island were expressed because of publications in the peer-reviewed scientific literature suggesting unique characteristics worthy of further scientific study in these animals (Brisbin et al. 1977), their value as a game animal and the cultural importance of their presence on the island through several hundred years.  The suggestion that WRD adopt the recommendation of its 1992 Ossabaw Island Feral Hog Advisory Committee (Johnson et al. 1992), which recommended significant population reduction with a core remnant population of these animals being maintained on the island in perpetuity, was the opinion of the minority.

WRD will continue to remove feral hogs to result in no measurable ecological impact. A variety of lethal techniques will be used to achieve this goal including but not limited to, trapping and shooting, shooting by WRD personnel, and managed hunts. At current population levels, removal may at times need to exceed 2500 per year.

Ossabaw Island Comprehensive Management Plan:
Game Management
http://www.dnr.state.ga.us/dnr/wild/game_mgmt/  

Ossabaw Island Swine have been recognized as an endangered livestock breed by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.  They estimate fewer than 200 (and this is a generous estimate) individuals live in captivity off the island (http://www.albc-usa.org). The ALBC has secured as much as $30,000 for saving the Sicilian donkeys on the island, who are also scheduled for elimination. They have NO PLANS to do anything for the pigs (personal communication, Dr. Don Bixby).

I'm writing to you because I don't know what to do! This is a unique population of very lovable, personable pigs who have survived on this island despite incredible odds for 500 years! They are essentially the 'Misty of Chincoteague' pigs. I have two Ossabaw swine sisters who live with me on my farm. They are beautiful, intelligent creatures.

There is no mention of the 'eradication' of these pigs on the swine breed site of Oklahoma State University, Breeds of Livestock - Swine Breeds
http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/SWINE/index.htm  

Or on the ALBC site, which talks glowingly of their value to the world. Nor is there any mention of the elimination plans on the Ossabaw Island homepage.
Ossabaw Island Foundation
http://www.ossabawisland.org/wildlife.html  

There is however a charming description of the Ossabaw pigs history as well as a good picture. The Ossabaw Island Foundation also sells a book written by Sandy West, Maria Bosomworth and William Rodgers, a true story of love and friendship between an Ossabaw piglet and a puppy. Complete with photographs.

A friend of mine talked to Sandy West last week. Mrs. West still lives on the Island. According to her, there were people with guns on the beaches, including a SWAT team, using the pigs for target practice. My information is definitely second hand.   Is this the beginning of the eradication program or simply business as usual during hunting season?  Or eradication posing as hunting season?  Another second hand story from a tourist to Ossabaw Island says that she was told that the Ossabaw sows are being given birth control medication of some kind with the goal of eliminating all pigs from the Island.

Is this the nice story they're telling tourists?

I live in Fargo North Dakota and have no way to determine what is really going on at the moment. However the Georgia DNR plans are frighteningly real and will be implemented sometime soon. Is there anything I can do, as a very non-influential individual who loves pigs? To the best of my understanding, Sandy West has tried to garner support for the pigs, to no avail.

I'd think the story would appeal to the public. The pigs are very photogenic and charming (I've got many photos of my two Ossabaw sisters). In addition the pigs have been recognized by the scientific community as genetically unique, thus how can this eradication program proceed? In addition the previous Ossabaw Island management plan, in 1992, did in fact recommend keeping a population of pigs on the island (Johnson et al. 1992. Report of the committee on Ossabaw Island hogs. 1 July 1992. Ga. Dept. of Natural Resource. Div. (report on file), Brunswick. 5pp.)

In any case, I'm at my wits end.....no one seems to be interested in taking on the plight of these wonderful creatures. Any suggestions you could provide would be greatly appreciated!

Alison Kirby

Please, anyone with any suggestions or ways to help the pigs write Alison at: kirby@en.com  (Alison)

Return to Animals in Print 3 Nov 2000 Issue

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