Research value may earn pigs reprieve

Last updated 05:00 07/03/2014
Southland Times photo
BARRY HARCOURT/The Southland Times
HAPPY AS A PIG IN THE PROVERBIAL: Mayor Tim Shadbolt feeds some Auckland Island pigs near Invercargill.

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Some of the wild pigs set for the chop on the Auckland Islands may be spared by Conservation Minister Nick Smith, who sees the potential research benefits in the animals.

"I think we will get some back here," he said yesterday.

"I think there's potential for us to maximise the research benefits from this unusual pig population which has been separated from the rest of the world for the past couple of hundred years."

Dr Smith was speaking after arriving at Bluff yesterday following a trip aboard the HMNZS Wellington naval ship to the Auckland Islands.

Dr Smith wants the 50,000- hectare Auckland Islands to be eradicated of pigs, mice and cats, saying the predators were devastating the natural wildlife.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt is sure to be pleased Dr Smith wants to bring some of the pigs back to the mainland.

He has also expressed a desire to bring some back to the mainland in recent years.

Mr Shadbolt's name is synonymous with the Auckland Island pigs, with the story widely told that he controversially used his mayoral budget to feed the disease-free pigs, before it was known they were a potential cure for millions of diabetics worldwide.

Biotech company Living Cell Technologies has set up a piggery to house Auckland Island pigs near Invercargill. They are used in clinical trials in a bid to normalise the lives of people with unstable type 1 diabetes.

In the treatment, pancreatic cells from the Auckland Island pigs are injected into the patient's abdomen to boost insulin production and regulate blood glucose levels.

The pigs are used because their genetic and geographic isolation means they are free from the infections carried by humans and other animals.

Mr Shadbolt and Living Cell Technologies could not be contacted.

evan.harding@stl.co.nz

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