WATCH: Dramatic rescue of three little pigs mysteriously abandoned on Irish island
Three little pigs have been saved in a dramatic rescue after being mysteriously abandoned on an island in Athlone, Co Westmeath.
A team of local volunteers worked together to bring the piglets to safety from the small island on Lough Ree on Thursday.
Athlone woman Cheryl Mellett coordinated the rescue after noticing a Facebook post from the owner of the island who had spotted the pigs roaming around.
Cheryl, who has been involved in animal rescue for many years, told Independent.ie that she reached out to the owner to find out more.
“He said they appeared three or four weeks ago, nobody seemed to know anything about them but they looked quite hungry. He was concerned for their welfare,” she said.
She went to visit the island on Saturday, July 23, but couldn’t find the pigs.
“You could clearly see where they had been rummaging through the forest and you got a strong scent in one area so we knew they were there somewhere,” she said.
“The island’s not that big, it’s about the size of a large city roundabout, but it’s very wooded with a lot of trees and hedges so there’s plenty of hiding space for them. However, there wouldn’t be a lot for them to eat or live off.”
When she received a call on Thursday evening saying the pigs had been spotted, she asked some members of the Athlone Sub Aqua Club, with whom she had previously helped rescue animals in distress, for assistance.
Once the team was assembled, they headed out to the island on a boat and rescued the piglets with their nets.
“We had the nets in case they were running off to get away from us, and given their colouring they would be camouflaged well, it would be very hard to find them again,” Cheryl said.
“They were absolutely famished. They were very, very thin, their back bones were protruding, you could feel their ribs the whole way down.
“They were extremely underweight so I’d say if you left them there much longer they wouldn’t have survived.
“It’s a huge mystery as to how they got there, nobody knows where they come from.”
She reached out to her friend Susan Anderson, owner of the LittleHill Animal Rescue and Sanctuary in Kildare, who offered to take in the pigs.
“I put down the back seats of my car and put the pigs in the back, they were quite comfortable there.”
After a two-and-a-half hour drive, Cheryl arrived at the rescue centre at 11.30pm, where the pigs received a "very warm welcome" from Susan and her granddaughter.
It is believed the pigs were bred to be pets.
Cheryl sent photos of the pigs to her friend Gerry Creighton, who works at Dublin Zoo, and he estimated they were about a year old, based on their hooves and the length of their teeth.
“He reckons they’re deliberately bred to be a domesticated, miniature size pig for pets. At the size they are now, he doesn’t think they’ll get any bigger,” she said.
Since arriving at the sanctuary, the pigs have quickly settled into their new environment. A vet is expected to visit tomorrow to give them a full health check.
“They’re well fed up, their body weight has increased and they’re in good form. They’re running around squealing when they see Susan coming with the bucket of food for them,” Cheryl said.
“Susan has had a wide variety of animals but she said never in all her days did she expect to find me delivering three pigs in the back of her car!”