Thursday 25 December 2014

The iguana in the living room

Forget dogs and cats – you're more likely to find snakes, pigs and birds of prey in these four Irish households

Eddie and Margaret Drew looking after some of their flock, a 10 week old raven,  three, 3 week old Bengal eagle owl chicks and a cockatoo at home in Kilmacanogue .Exotic pets story Kathleen O'Callaghan  Pix Ronan Lang/Feature File
Eddie and Margaret Drew looking after some of their flock, a 10 week old raven, three, 3 week old Bengal eagle owl chicks and a cockatoo at home in Kilmacanogue Photo: Ronan Lang.
Jake looks after one of his raccoons,Tullula at his home. Photo: Ronan Lang
Jake with some of his huge collection of snakes, at his home in Glenageary . Photo: Ronan Lang
Dave Griffin pictured at his home in Rathoe Co Carlow with his wild animals. Harold and Spike snapping turtles, Eddie the Iguana, Kevin the Crocodile, and Frank the Monitor Lizard and Tony the Python. Photo: Dylan Vaughan.
Jake with his Iguana and snapper turtle at his home in Glenageary . Photo: Ronan Lang.
Eddie and Margaret Drew's 3-week-old Bengal eagle owl chicks. Photo: Ronan Lang

Heard any strange animal noises lately? Like chattering chimps, hissing snakes, grunting pigs, squawking parrots and snapping turtles?

You may think your ears are deceiving you, but many suburban back gardens and kitchen conservatories are becoming second homes to a host of weird and wonderful exotic pets – from royal pythons, iguanas and chipmunks to chinchillas and raccoons.

Garden sheds are rattling with ring-tailed lemurs, kitchens are chattering with cockatoos and sofas heaving with curly tailed micro-pigs.

Fortunately, many of these animals have found wonderful homes with Irish pet enthusiasts and herpetologists (who study amphibians) who are committed to giving them a fulfilling life in a healthy environment.

We tracked down some of Ireland's most unique pet owners and met their amazing creatures.

Denise Woods

These little piggies

I came across teacup pigs on the internet five years ago. I was immediately smitten. I just had to have one of those gorgeous little pigs, so I contacted Rob Rose, who is a micro-pig breeder in England. I travelled over to the UK to see them.

My husband, Cormac, and our two sons, Barry and Sean, discussed it and we decided to get not one but two pregnant sows, who are called Lottie and Polly. Later on, we got a male boar known as Wilburt.

They were adorable when they came home. A few months later, they gave birth to eight piglets – four girls and four boys. I kept the females for breeding and then sold on the little fellas to friends who also love micro-pigs.

The level of interest in these loveable pets encouraged me to continue breeding them, and I set up my own website with the help of my brother called micropigfarm.ie.

Lottie and Polly sometimes potter around the kitchen when they aren't mucking around in the yard. In the summer, they love a big hose down with cool water and they dry off in the sunshine.

In fact, contrary to perceptions, these pigs are very clean, intelligent and easily toilet trained. They love to curl up on the big bean bag here and snuggle under a large fluffy blanket beside us in the evening.

It's lovely to sit back and hear them give the odd contented 'oink, oink'. They get on great with my three dogs. You can see them smiling with their little snouts.

To really get to know the pig, you must first earn the piglet's trust and win them over emotionally. They won't go with anyone and don't like it if strangers pick them up. They will squeal – just like any child, I guess.

But once you win them over, they will love you unconditionally and shower you with affection. One little piggy follows me around the kitchen all day long.

I always had a certain fascination with pigs. I used to collect memorabilia, from little ornaments to teacups decorated with pigs, when I was younger and when I used to run a flower shop in Dundalk. It's great to have the real thing snuggling up beside me now.

Irish Independent

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