Performing pigs steal the show at Thai zoo

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CHON BURI, Thailand (Reuters) - Pigs can fly? Well not quite fly, but they can jump through rings of fire and twirl on pedestals, as a new show at a Thai zoo proves.

Five pink and black piglets are the unlikely new stars of the performance, outbilling even tigers and crocodiles in the Chinese year of the pig.

They dance, pick up tennis balls and zig-zag through poles. They even jump, or lumber to be precise, through flaming hoops, lured by the reward of biscuits.

In five months of pig shows at the Sriracha Tiger Zoo in the Thai resort province of Chon Buri, around 80 km (50 miles) east of Bangkok, not a loin of pork has been charred.

“We didn’t think they could do anything like this. We thought pigs just lie there and do nothing. It’s great!” said 28-year-old Dutch tourist Tanja van den Bogert, who watched the show along with several hundred other enthusiastic zoo goers.

Surat Tiplaksaa, in charge of the zoo’s new stars, used to train tigers. More patience is needed with pigs, he says, because their attention span is limited by a constant urge to forage for food.

“Tigers are dangerous and it’s more of a challenge. With pigs, it’s difficult to control them because they can’t stand still,” said Surat, after trying to teach five-month-old Tong to pick up colored plastic tubes with his snout and drop them in a container of the corresponding color.

Training begins when the piglets are two or three months old and takes about three months. One of the hazards of growing up is that they get fatter and are not able to perform, so none of the pigs are older than about eight months.

But the pigs are not turned into bacon. After retiring from the show, they live happily at the zoo.