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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

10 rare captive-bred pygmy hogs released in Assam’s Manas National Park

This is the third time pygmy hogs have been reintroduced in Manas after the successful release of 14 in 2020 and 12 in 2021.

GUWAHATI:

Ten captive-bred pygmy hogs, which are the smallest and rarest wild pigs in the world that are facing an extinction threat, were released in Manas National Park of Assam by the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCP), on June 8 and 10.

As part of its rewilding strategy, the PHCP will continue to maintain about 70 captive hogs at two of its centres in Assam and breed more hogs for release.

“Conservation of lesser-known species such as pygmy hogs, Bengal florican and Hispid hare and other grassland obligatory species is equally important as those of ‘charismatic’ species such as the tiger and the one-horned rhinoceros. Pygmy hog reintroduction efforts will help the grassland as they indicate the health of the habitat and also the programme envisaged to contribute for restoration of their habitat,” said Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, CEO of Aaranyak, a wildlife NGO and key partner of the programme.

This is the third time pygmy hogs have been reintroduced in Manas after the successful release of 14 in 2020 and 12 in 2021. The PHCP plans to release a target of 60 pygmy hogs in Manas by 2025. The iconic species are now returning to their home where their last original population had dramatically declined.

Manas National Park field director Vaibhav Chandra Mathur stated, “The pygmy hog is a species which has been recovered from the verge of extinction in the wild. With Manas Tiger Reserve serving as the source stock of hogs for the Pygmy Hog Conservation programme, this tranche of supplementation with a captive-bred population is going to strengthen conservation efforts, especially for tall wet grasslands, for which the pygmy hog serves as an indicator species. At the same time, this is an opportunity to develop scientifically and statistically robust monitoring protocols for the species, which are practically implementable in the field periodically, so that a pulse can be kept on pygmy hog numbers and their distribution status.”

Manas contains some of the largest remaining grassland blocks in the sub-Himalayan grassland ecosystems. Found only in these tall dense alluvial grasslands, pygmy hogs are incredibly shy and are rarely seen.

Dr Lesley Dickie, CEO, of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, came to Assam to take part in this year’s pygmy hog release.

She said, “Durrell has been committed to conserving the tiny but precious pygmy hog, and their grassland home, for decades. With our partners, including the government, we strive to create a functioning habitat that also allows local communities to thrive. It was an honour to take part in this latest release, meet with our partners and see first-hand the amazing work of the Durrell team in India. I hope to return in the not too distant future.”

With this release, the number of pygmy hogs reintroduced into the wild by the PHCP has reached 152 (70 males, 82 females), which is more than their current original global wild population.

In the last two years when both Coronavirus and African Swine Fever have presented major challenges for the PHCP, the successful release of these 14 hogs in 2020 and 12 hogs in 2021 is a landmark achievement and is the key step on the road to the establishment of a new sub-population of pygmy hogs in Manas National Park.

It has been estimated that with the release of these 10 (3 M, 7 F) hogs in Rupahi grasslands in the Bhuyanpara range of Manas National Park, the total number of reintroduced hogs and their progeny may have reached 200 in the four release sites.

In 1995, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Jersey, UK partnered with the Assam Forest Department, IUCN, Wild Pig Specialist Group and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change to form Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCP).

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