Did you know pigs liked to have their tummies tickled?

by ZSL on

Did you know pigs liked to have their tummies tickled?! Keeper Jessica Jones introduces us to some of the residents of Animal Adventure and explains why training is so important. 

Jessica with kune kune pig Kiri

Kune kune pigs 

People often underestimate animals that are quite familiar to them, but pigs are fascinating and very clever animals! Kune kunes are a domestic pig from New Zealand and were on the verge of extinction a few decades back, until people got together and started a breeding programme. 
 
We have three kune kune pigs at the Zoo – Kiri, Arona and Reka. Out of the three of them, Kiri is definitely the boss, whereas Arona is the sweetest and tends to like her own company. They all have some things in common though – one of their favourite foods is sweet potato and they love to have their tummies tickled! They roll over, a bit like a dog does. 
 
Our pigs are trained to go for walks without a harness on, target trained and they even sit down on cue! More importantly with all the training we do we are able to carry out health checks on our pigs. We’re able to weigh them, check their ears and eyes, and they also open their mouths so we can check their teeth. 

Pigs have poor eye sight, so we can’t use hand gestures as part of the training, but they have a great sense of smell to make up for it. And because they’re so smart, they pick things up quickly, and it only takes around a week to train them. 
 
We regularly walk our pigs around the Zoo, so look out for them on your next visit! 

Jessica with llama Ande

Llamas 

Llamas have been domesticated for thousands of years and have some ingenious adaptions to help them cope in tough conditions. They’re great at conserving water, and they have a split top lip so they can even catch and drink the mucus that drips from their nose! 
 
We have three llamas in Animal Adventure – Dainty and son Ande, and Tiggy. 
 
I have a particular soft spot for Ande, who’s just turned five years old. One of my most memorable moments at the Zoo was the day he was born. We’d only weighed mum Dainty that morning and she wasn’t showing any signs of going into labour. But while I was having lunch with the team, we got a call to say that she was giving birth! We all ran down to watch, and it was a very special moment to see Ande take his first steps. 
 
Ande is very cheeky and likes to be centre of attention! He’s harness trained and, because he’s nosey, he loves to explore so we take him on regular walks around the Zoo. This is great exercise for him, and gives him the chance to eat grass and different vegetation that we have across the Zoo. 
 
It's important for all of our llamas to be trained to aid health checks. They’re able to go into an individual area separately where they have their breakfast bucket, and this means that we can weigh them and give them injections if needed. 
 
On a sunny day, look out for eight-year-old Tiggy who loves to sunbathe! 
 Clyde with his boomer ball

Donkeys 

We also have two donkeys – Clyde and Acer. They’re both quite bossy with each other, but Acer’s learnt to be sneaky. He’ll wait until he thinks no one’s looking before he’s naughty!
 
Enrichment is important for our animals, and our donkeys love playing with their scented boomer balls. They also like to go out and about on walks around the Zoo. 
 
If they’re not out on their walks, you can find our kune kune pigs, llamas and donkeys in Animal Adventure. And you can see more of our residents showcasing their incredible skills in our daily events, like Animals in Action and Super Species Live! 
 
Learn more about Animal Adventure

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