Meet the unlikely mascot who is preventing Jersey Shore beaches from being cleaned, according to Hamlette's mini-pig

Meet the unlikely mascot who is preventing Jersey Shore beaches from being cleaned, according to Ham ...

There was a very unusual volunteer collecting debris at Saturday's spring Beach Sweeps event in Toms River. No, the Jersey Shore does not have its own as the Bahamas, and Hamlette is no wild animal. He's the beloved pet and companion of Crystal DeCaro, a long-time "Beach Captain" volunteer with for their biannual each year. He's a real stickler for litter.

Hamlette, a keen animal lover and owner of two rescue dogs, came to DeCaro's house in February 2017. She was "looking for something new" in a pet when she discovered a litter of Juliana piglets at the Meadowlands State Fair and "instantly fell in love."

According to the American Mini Pig Association, the Juliana breed is a "small, colorfully sighted pig" that more closely mimics a "small version of a large hog or feral pig" than the Pot Belly Pig. They're known for being intelligent, curious, and even easier to train than dogs. In April of 2017, Hamlette attended his first Beach Sweeps event and made an immediate appearance.

"So many people saw what looked like a dog and then realized it was a pig out on the beach," DeCaro said of NJ Advance Media.

At his first Beach Sweeps event in April 2017, Hamlette was seen here with owner Crystal DeCaro and her partner Ryan Carr both are Beach Captains for Climate Ocean Action and their twice-annual Beach Sweeps events.

DeCaro, 32, has been involved with the environmental organization and their twice-annual Beach Sweeps for ten years. DeCaro learned from her family's frequent trips to the beach, but was surprised by the presence of trash on the shoreline.

So from a young age, my eyes have been open to pollution and its impact on our marine life, DeCaro said.

DeCaro left Toms River shortly after graduating school and established a career for herself in school food and nutrition. At 22, she found a similar-minded group of eco-conscious Clean Ocean Action volunteers. She has been volunteering with them ever since.

I thought I wanted to meet people who have a similar conviction and want to make a positive impact in the world, DeCaro said. That way, I may be part of a group that makes a difference.

After the first Beach Sweeps event, DeCaro noticed that Hamlette was doing more than enquiring about the cleanup himself. Hamlette tries to remove debris from volunteers' faces by using his intruding snout to push dirt out of the way and uncovering trash.

He assists volunteers in not only getting whats right on the surface, DeCaro said.

On Saturday, April 9, 2022, Mini pig Hamlette participated in Clean Ocean Action's Beach Sweeps cleanup in the Ortley Beach area of Toms River. Hamlette served as a co-Beach Captain with his owners Crystal DeCaro and Ryan Carr of Toms River. Jim Lowney for New Jersey Advance Media

Hamlette's ability to recognize pollutants is tied to his species' natural ability. Studies have found that pigs have more olfactory receptors than most mammals. With their keen sense of smell, they can detect some odors that humans cannot perceive. DeCaro said Hamlette is discerning when it comes to debris he will not eat inedible items.

"I warn people who stop by and see him do this that Hamlette is excellent, but he will not eat this stuff." But a child at the beach may pick it up and put it in their mouth. It helps the conversation towards the point in which everything is important to carry in and carry out." DeCaro

Hamlette is still a porcine and pigs are notorious omnivores. If there is food waste left behind, you can rest assured Hamlette will sniff it out and scarf it down. He particularly enjoys "leftover seafood," according to DeCaro. Fine palette for a pig.

Hamlette is found at DeCaro's Toms River house, alongside her two pitbull-mix dogs. The trio is nearly inseparable, interacting, cuddle together, and even sleeping together. Only mealtimes are separated, according to DeCaro, "because otherwise he would eat their own food."

Hamlette has a well-rounded diet of pig pellets and assorted vegetables, including peppers, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes. Once in a while, he'll get a treat and if he's ever present at a birthday party, he'll be the first to soften a messy kid's frosting-covered face (which usually results in squeals of delight from the pig and the kid, according to DeCaro).

"He is really like having a very happy dog who just wants to play and be with everyone," she said.

Hamlette was a normal social self on Saturday night's Beach Sweep, wagging his tail and occasionally surfacing discarded materials and other harmful chemicals. DeCaro said, however, that it is a win-win for both people.

We need to show appreciation to Mother Earth and everything that it gives us, and Hamlette is a way to initiate that conversation, DeCaro said. Cleaning the beaches and keeping them clean is not only important for yourself and others, but for animals and our whole environment.

Pigs aren't allowed to fly, but it's apparent they make pretty good mascots for a purpose.

On Saturday, April 9, 2022, Mini pig Hamlette, his owners Crystal DeCaro, and Aurora the dog participate in the Clean Ocean Action's Beach Sweeps cleanup in the Ortley Beach area of Toms River. Hamlette served as a co-Beach Captain with his owners Crystal DeCaro and Ryan Carr of Toms River. Jim Lowney for NJ Advance Media

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