Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Piglet triplets get cuddly company

Jo Shirley, a keeper at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire, alongside wild boar piglets
Jo Shirley, a keeper at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire, with one of the wild boar piglets
Newborn wild boar piglets at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire

A cuddly toy is helping to keep three wild boar piglets company at a zoo where they are being hand-reared by keepers.

Four-week-old sisters Dotty, Hettie and Gertie are being cared for by keepers at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire after their mother had an extra-large litter and was unable to give them the attention they needed.

Keeper Jo Shirley looks after the tiny triplets day and night, feeding them around the clock.

At first she gave them milk every two hours to build up their strength, but she has now reduced this to every four hours.

A cuddly toy sheep keeps them company in their enclosure when she is not around.

Ms Shirley said: "Like typical sisters they are very different. Dotty is the most laid back out of the three, whereas Hettie is very mischievous and Gertie just wants to play all the time.

"We've built them a special enclosure from straw bales, complete with heat lamps, blankets, and a toy sheep which is left for them to snuggle up to whenever I'm not around.

"Usually the piglets would cuddle up to their mum, so the sheep is very comforting for them - although they're so cute, one of us is always popping in to say hello to them."

The trio will be looked after until they are strong enough to live on the Children's Farm at the zoo where they will join hand-reared wallabies, llamas, silkie chickens, goats and donkeys.

Wild boar roam the oak forests and shrublands of Europe, Asia and North Africa. The animals - which are the ancestors of farmyard pigs that have been domesticated for thousands of years - can run fast, swim well and eat just about any food.

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