Zoo’s pig goes snout and about
Tuesday 13 October 2009
A dog may be man's best friend, but one keeper at ZSL London Zoo prefers walking a piggy to a pooch.
For the past three months keeper Veronica Heldt has been walking Lani, an 11-month old kune kune pig, around the Zoo.
Veronica explained: “Lani was chosen because she’s the last to come at feeding times. She’s the least food motivated by food and definitely not the greedy pig you would expect. She’s a lot more laidback than the rest and is quite happy to go with the flow.
Lani’s training began with her first being taught to sit, something that took the clever pig only a few attempts to master.
Next was harness training, getting her used to being on a lead. Once that was perfected, Veronica started walking her around the paddock. Within a few weeks the pair were ready for their first proper walk.
These walks are be part of Lani’s ‘enrichment’, a special programme of activity designed to encourage her natural behaviour and curiosity. A change of surroundings gives her the perfect opportunity to practice skills such as scratching, digging, foraging, sniffing, rubbing, chewing, scent marking and problem solving.
Despite pigs being grazing animals, Lani isn’t particularly interested in walking on the grass. Instead she prefers to trot through Animal Adventure’s courtyard and along the path, snacking on the odd leaf and plant en-route.
Visitors love seeing her on her walk but she gets the biggest reaction from her neighbours: the llamas and alpacas. Even though they see her all the time, they always rush over to see her when she’s walking past.
Veronica added: “She’s always happy to casually wander along and loves to explore as she walks. But once she’s ready for home she makes it very clear - she practically runs back.
Lani is one of five kune kune pigs, a domestic breed from New Zealand, in Animal Adventure - ZSL London Zoo’s new £2.3m children’s exhibit. Kune kunes were kept by New Zealand’s native Māori people. Their name means "chubby" in the Māori language and Lani means “flower”.
Whilst Veronica is hoping to get the rest out walking eventually, she realises that the others might be a bit more work.
Visitors can see the pair embark on their daily walk at 3pm, unless it’s raining - Lani isn’t fan of walking on slippery wet pavement slabs.