Playing With Pigs (No, really!)

In my research about play I came across some people who want to play with pigs. Apparently, pigs are very smart and get bored easily. Once they get bored they chew on each others ears and tails. The European Union has issued rules that pigs need enrichment in their pens to help them not be bored. But the enrichment is usually something like a piece of rope on a chain and they figure it out pretty quickly.

Enter theĀ  people at playingwithpigs.nl. They tried to find something that would engage pigs and give people a way to interact with them. They explored things pigs might like, and discovered that they respond to spots of light. They started prototyping a game where spots of color appear on a wall in the pen when someone with an ipad starts a game. The pig and the human have to coordinate movements of the light to bring it to a triangle, where firework-type lights go off as a reward. The pigs enjoy it, it’s different every time, and it gives people a way to interact with these intelligent animals, even when they are far away.

My immediate thought was that this could be expanded for other animals. How often have you seen zoo animals that look bored to tears? I saw a chimp one time spit out something chewed up and icky (vomit? squished banana? I couldn’t tell) then eat it again, then spit it out again, then eat it again… How bored do you have to be to do that? What if there were a way for chimps, elephants, and other smart, bored animals to interact more with humans? It would give them a chance to play, which would relieve some boredom. It would give people a chance to play with them, which gives us a chance to create more emotional bonds with them. How cool would that be! Even if it’s just trained volunteers who operate the controls, it would still give all of us a better connection to and understanding of these animals.

So I put it out to the people of the world (or at least the two of you following my blog) to help the people trying to play with pigs, find ways to play with other animals, and increase the connection and understanding and fun we all can have with animals.