The continued success of the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCP) implemented by SOS grantee EcoSystems India spells hope for this, the world’s rarest and smallest wild pig. "The release of six additional animals this week in Bornadi Wildlife Sanctuary represents a milestone in pygmy hog conservation”, says Goutam Narayan, PHCP project director.
These Critically Endangered hogs are diminutive creatures with males reaching a maximum height of about 28 centimetres and weighing between 8 and 10 kilos.
Yet they punch above their weight according to Goutam.
“Pygmy Hogs act as a barometer for the health of these grasslands” – habitat characterised by densely packed 2 metre tall grasses. They live in small groups of up to eight among the grasses and sleep in grass nests round the year – they depend on these grasslands for survival.
Such habitat is also crucial for survival of other threatened species such as the Indian Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), Tiger (Panthera tigris), Water Buffalo (Bubalus arnee), Hispid Hare (Caprolagus hispidus) and the Bengal Florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis). And so as an indicator, a healthy population of hogs is a good sign for these species also.
Of the six Pygmy Hogs released, three are females and three males, including four one-year olds, one two-year old and one of three years, according to Goutam. The hogs were taken from a pre-release facility in Potasali, Assam to the release enclosures in Bornadi Wildlife Sanctuary 100 km to the west, on Saturday 21st May. After allowing the animals acclimatise by keeping them for three days in enclosures that simulate their natural habitat, they were ready for release.
As with other Pygmy Hog reintroduction sites the PHCP team have been collaborating closely with the management team and staff in Bornadi explains Goutam. “We have been restoring grasslands by removing invasive plants while controlling livestock grazing and grass fires. The habitat is improving at Bornadi and with the help of the forest department we are removing the invasive species."
Since the release site is currently quite small the team released just six hogs. As more grasslands are restored more animals will be released in the future. Yet monitoring their progress living among the tall grasses will be challenging. For the first month the team will bait the release site with hog treats to encourage the animals to return each day. That way they can determine how they are adjusting to their new life in the wild. Over the longer-term hogs will be monitored through radio telemetry, camera traps and tracking them through field signs.
Commenting on the importance of the PHCP’s work and successes to date, Director of SOS, Jean-Christophe Vié added, “this is a species that could have gone extinct without dedicated conservation work by Goutam Narayan and his team, so congratulations are due on this important milestone."
The PHCP is a collaborative programme of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, IUCN Wild Pig Specialist Group, the State Forest Department and the Ministry of Forestry and implemented by EcoSystems-India. SOS supported it directly from 2012 to 2014 with a two year grant, during which time many hogs were successfully reared in captivity and released in other sites in Assam.
This project is just one of 109 conservation projects supported by IUCN’s SOS initiative to date. With your valuable support we can continue to find and fund the best frontline conservation tackling issues like habitat degradation, invasive species, wildlife crime, species recovery and alternative livelihoods. Please donate now and help SOS save more species.