It is not uncommon for invasive species to inhabit the island of Puerto Rico. A few years ago, it was the iguana and caimans (a reptile related to alligators). However, the latest invasion is by pigs – a specie of Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs. Reports are that thousands of these pigs are roaming the country and are wreaking havoc in people’s lives. They not only destroy gardens and farms but leave the unbearable stench of their excrement as a calling card.
Although the island’s signature dish is roasted pig; these pigs cannot be added to the menu because they carry about 30 types of diseases, including various forms of herpes. Efforts have been made to get rid of the diseased pigs, but experts are back at the drawing board trying to figure out the best plan. In August, over a 4-day period, 500 pigs were captured but the rate at which they multiply made such a plan appear ineffective. The pigs reproduce before they are a year old and birth up to 10 piglets at a time. Captured pigs are euthanized by Puerto Rico’s Department of Agriculture but the action has come under fire from animal rights groups who have demanded that they be kept in a safe place until a sanctuary is built for them.
The pigs were initially used as pets. Persons were drawn to their cute features when they are small until they realized they could grow to weigh up to 250 lbs. The pig population got out of control after hurricane Maria in 2017; pet owners set them free and some of them escaped into the wilds. Officials are concerned that the invasion is more than a nuisance; it is now a health concern.