Assam, September 12: The Pygmy Hog is the smallest, rarest and most highly specialized member of the pig family. It was formerly known to occur across a narrow strip of early successional tall grassland plains along the southern Himalayan foothills in the Indian subcontinent. Although it was described from North Bengal in 1847, all recent reports refer to North-West Assam where the species was rediscovered in 1971 after it was long suspected to become extinct.
By the time the recovery programme was launched in 1995, the species was reduced to a single declining wild population of a few hundred hogs in the Manas National Park, with no individual in captivity anywhere in the world.
The reason for pygmy hog disappearance was largely related to extensive destruction and degradation of grassland habitat due to rapid expansion of human settlements and farming activities.
With the support of SOS – Save Our Species, EcoSystems-India will be carrying out activities crucial to the conservation of the pygmy hogs in collaboration with the Assam Forest Department, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the SSC Wild Pig Specialist Group. The project will aim to maintain about 60 captive hogs at two places in Assam while breeding selected hogs to raise about 20 new hogs every year. From this captive-bred population, 14 will be prepared for independent survival in the wild, eventually to be released in restored, well managed and protected grasslands in Assam.
The primary goal of the project is to promote recovery of the species and to reduce its population decline further. The short-term objective of the project is to reintroduce pygmy hogs at three locations and create two captive populations.