A Greek-Aussie: love writing, love the outdoors, love my 2 kids, love heavy metal and love life (usually!).
Published April 14th 2014
I encountered 'Hog Heaven' recently! Eventually that is, on a trip to the island of Aegina (an hour or so ferry ride away from Greece's capital, Athens). It was in the form of a big pig, or, a wild boar. This exciting event occurred at the Aegina Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary, up high on a picturesque and relatively isolated part of the island, (close to the village of Pahia Rahi). It is easy to get to though. For example, we hired a car for 40 euros for the day, and drove the 15 minute drive from the port centre to the Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Aegina Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary houses injured birds mainly, but as the name suggests, some other wildlife too, such as foxes and of course, a wild boar. The main goal of the Sanctuary is to help the animals to heal in order to re-enter their natural habitat if appropriate, if not, they remain at the Sanctuary. The huge, spacious cages become the birds' home, amongst a quiet environment of fresh air emanating from the Sanctuary's green surroundings and sea below. There is also a mini surgery where vet nary surgeons do their utmost to heal.
It's all good to help animals, and to save them and care for them I deliberated, but not to the detriment of humans! A somewhat extreme thought perhaps. But one that occurred to me at that moment because as the Sanctuary's proprietor, Mr Giannis was about to take us on a tour of the grounds, he first began to undo the latch of a hefty, wild boar's cage!
In fact before I had a chance to control my dropping jaw at the sight of this prehistoric-looking oaf (remember, I'm a city gal), the cage door was o-p-e-n-i-n-g.
In the meantime, Mr Giannis began to make gushing sounds to the boar in the form of 'come, come, sweet Obelix'. Too self conscious of my city girl status (aka 'sheltered), I had to refrain from yelling to Mr Giannis: 'Are you mad man? What are you doing? There'll be carnage!' In an attempt to control my adrenalin charging fight or flight readiness which was prompting fantastical scenes of human, bloodied flesh scattered around the grounds, I jumped behind a friend standing nearby who was subsequently witnessing the scene, but later claimed that he could 'tell' by the creature's 'eye' (not eyes mind you) that there was no danger.
With the cage door now open, the beast (Obelix, excuse me), pointed its head down (getting ready to charge no doubt, I surmised in my frenzied state). Then it did a few weird, shoving side movements bumping into my two friends who were giggling. Oh the foolhardy unknowing, I nodded glumly to myself . 'Pat him' demanded Mr Gianni, adding, 'he's so tame and good natured'.
As I cowered further aback, my friends inquired as to the brute's biography, to which Mr Gianni told that he was found tied up and injured in the small yard of an Athenian apartment block, probably awaiting slaughter. This wildlife sanctuary were notified and rescued him, and that was many years ago. Since then Obelix seemed comfortable in the grounds and was too old to be returned to the Northern Greek wilds of his origins. Interesting and moving story I supposed, but the brute was now out of its cage, and his repressed memories - or post traumatic stress disorder may return with a vengeance!
Obelix though, (the not so wild, wild after all!) of his own accord slowly meandered off down the path. And all this to my friends' mocking cues of 'see, look how tame and cute he is'. 'Hmm' I thought, and 'Phew!' We were safe. And in a feeble attempt to cover my former cowardice, prompted to ask Mr Giannis if I could 'pat him' when I saw him around (the boar that is, not Mr Giannis- though he too was wild and woolly in his own way).
Obelix, walks, or rather - merrily trots along around the grounds of the Sanctuary and does his thing, which is looking meekly out of those little, (not dangerous) curious eyes, and sniffs about. He also appears to dread the dog gang that also walks about the grounds. It was this same, very motley crew of doggies that met and greeted us as we arrived at the large sliding gate of the Wildlife Sanctuary's entrance. To Obelisk they were bullies. Not all of them to be fair. Three or four of them seemed to get along rather well with him, or tolerated him, and even seemed to ignore his at times, but it was the patchy, stumpish dog who was the terroriser. (See the mongrel in pic). He'd bark and bite at poor Obelisk, who would give him the 'eye' that timid, innocent eye. But that bully dog would go on taunting and acting all alpha male-ish.
These were my adventures at the Aegina Wildlife Sanctuary. A brilliant place, with a number of brilliant bird species there too that I certainly do not underestimate by focusing on Obelix. There are so many different birds to see that where does one start? Mr Giannis very informative and interesting tour of the Sanctuary takes about half to an hour depending on your questions. One of my questions was certainly answered regarding the tame, 'wild' boar Obelix. Why was he so tame and sweet? It was because of the nature of the Sanctuary, that brought out the very best in the nature of this wonderful creature. Kindness and love really do go a long way.