Auckland Island Pig
The Auckland Island pig is a breed of feral pig that resides on Auckland Island in New Zealand. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, domestic pigs were released onto many sub-Antarctic islands, including Auckland Island, by Europeans who wanted stranded sailors or whalers to have a steady supply of food when visiting these uninhabited islands. This process began in 1807 and after several other releases occurring between 1840 and the 1890’s, the pigs began to establish a healthy population. By the end of the nineteenth century, Auckland Island was home to a large population of unique pigs that had developed from many distinct breeds without the aid of humans.
The weight of the Auckland Island pig varies depending upon the sex, with males reaching an average length of 91.9 pounds and females reaching a weight of 82.2 pounds. Its head is narrow and holds a long snout and its tail is straight. In general, the body is small and has an athletic build. The fur is long and can be black, brown with black markings, or white in color. The breeds that helped develop the Auckland Island pig were derived from European and Asian lineages that are now mostly extinct and so the breed has low genetic variation.
By the late twentieth century, Auckland Island was full of pigs and the population was equally split between males and females. The pigs can be found in the open country and coastal forests during the summer months, but during the winter months most of the pig population will reside in warmer coastal forests. Their diet consists mainly of plant matter, although they can consume earth worms, bark, invertebrates, and the remains of dead sea lions or birds depending upon where they live.
Because the Auckland Island pigs are not native to the area and they were allowed to grow too large in number, they have become an invasive species and have destroyed many plant communities. Because of this, the pigs have declined in number and their population has not been able to recover. It has also negatively impacted wildlife in on the island, specifically bird species including the albatross and the pretrel. In order to restore the island to its natural state, the Department of Conservation of New Zealand announced that the pigs should be eradicated, although the Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand captured seventeen pigs for the purpose of captive breeding. As a result, the breed is not at risk of extinction.
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