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Forget Animal Farm, these resorts really are run by animals

Forget Animal Farm, these resorts really are run by animals

You may have heard of the idyllic sounding Pig Beach in the Bahamas, an island inhabited by pigs who have become quite the media darlings. Sophie Taylor is looking at more animal-run islands that have captured our imagination and made us think twice about the human need to conquer nature.

Bay of pigs, Major Cay, Carribean

bay of pigs
Image via Sobrino Sisters

On the tiny island of Big Major Cay, 20 or so pigs doze on the sand and splash about in the glittering blue sea of the Caribbean coast. Although attracting media attention fairly recently, these trotters have had the lay of the land for years.

Having attracted tourism to the island, the pigs have learned to expect dinner from the adoring humans and routinely paddle out towards any nearing boats hopeful for treats.

It is unclear how the pigs came to inhabit the island, with some reports suggesting sailors brought them in order to cook and eat later but never returned whilst the pigs survived on excess food cast off by passing ships. Some say they are survivors of a shipwreck or even escapees from a nearby islet.

The more cynical view is that they were planted as a publicity stunt and used to attract more tourism. As long as they are happy as a pig in sunshine then who really minds!


Isle of rabbits, Ōkunoshima, Japan

The origin of this rabbit run island in Japan is another source of contention, with the official story clouded by the presence of a once top secret World War II chemical weapons production on site.

Some purport that the rabbits are descendants of test subjects from this chemical plant. But with no natural predators on the island, the rabbits have survived and bred incessantly since the 1970’s when schoolchildren left a couple of bunnies behind on a trip.

The cottontails certainly attract more tourists than the poison gas museum up the road.


Seal Bay, False Bay, South Africa

If you like seals, you’ll love South Africa’s very own seal paradise on False Bay, Capetown. 64,000 cape fur seals have populated the 5-acre island where they roll around on the rocks, basking in sunshine and generally having a lovely old time together. It’s not all sunbathing and smiles, though.

Tourists book boat trips around breeding season in November and December to watch a few of the 20,000 seal pups being born. And, rather more grotesquely, to view the ‘ring of death’: the waters surrounding seal island that swarm with great white sharks who love nothing more than a seal or two for lunch. Tasteful.


Deer Island, Nara City, Japan

In some areas of Japan, deer are regarded as insolent pests and treated accordingly, but not in the city of Nara. Here the deer are revered and allowed to thrive and breed as they wish, attracting generous tourists who feed them liberally.

Nara deer have even decided that if you bow to them they will bow back for an edible treat. These are street wise mammals that strut nonchalantly amongst city life in Nara, reclining on the streets without a care.

Perhaps Bushy Park in Richmond could take note: rather than have the annual deer culling season, let them roam the streets of Surrey? I certainly wouldn’t mind bowing to the odd deer or two in Kingston town centre.


Cat city, Tonawanda Island, New York

feral cats
Image via Digital Journal

It is no surprise that cat cafes are becoming more and more popular in the UK: as a nation of cat lovers, the concept was welcomed with catnip-clad open arms. But Tonawanda Island may have taken the feline fun idea too far.

Hundreds of neglected cats are abandoned on the island every day, left to fend for themselves. One particular resident named Danielle Coogan decided to take matters into her own hands and raise money to neuter the cats to curb the ever growing population, aiming to also put kittens up for adoption.

Unfortunately, the act of catching the cats proved difficult and she couldn’t raise enough money to spay them all. More recently, the cat shelters that Coogan set up were bulldozed over and destroyed, reported as ‘an accident’ by the restaurant owner nearby.


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