Pygmy Hogs Conservation

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    Recently, 8 of 12 captive-bred pygmy hogs have been released in the Manas National Park of western Assam.

    • This is the second batch to have been reintroduced into the wild under the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCP) in 2021.

     

    Pygmy Hogs

    • Scientific Name: Porcula salvania
    • Features
      • These are the world’s rarest and smallest members of the pig family.
      • It is one of the very few mammals that build its own home, or nest, complete with a ‘roof’.
      • It is an indicator species as its presence reflects the health of its primary habitat, tall and wet grasslands.
        • A number of other endangered species like the one-horned rhino, tiger, hog deer, eastern barasingha, water buffalo, hispid hare, and the Bengal florican, are also dependent on the grasslands.
        • Wet grasslands also serve as buffer against floods in the monsoons, while maintaining high groundwater level in the dry season, thereby benefiting agriculture and the farming community that live on its fringes.
    • Habitat
      • Once found in the narrow strip of tall and wet grassland plains on the Himalayan foothills, from Uttar Pradesh to Assam, through Nepal’s terai areas and Bengal’s duars, it was thought to have become extinct in the 1960s.
        • However, in 1971 it was re-discovered with a small population in the Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary.
      • Currently, the only known population lives in Assam, India and possibly southern Bhutan.
        • The only viable population in the wild is in the Manas Tiger Reserve in Assam.
    • Threats
      • One of the main reasons for its decreasing numbers was grassland degradation due to grass burning in the dry season and livestock overgrazing.
    • Protection Status
      • IUCN Red List: Endangered
      • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I

     

    (Image Courtesy: DTE)

     

    Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme

    • Conservation of pygmy hog was initiated by noted naturalist Gerald Durrell and his trust in 1971. While efforts, in the form of a conservation survey, had begun in the late 1970s, the PHCP took off in 1995.
    • It follows a two-pronged action plan
      • Conservation breeding of the animal against possible early extinction and re-introduction in selected sites.
      • Habitat management.
    • Under it, six hogs (two males and four females) were captured from the Bansbari range of the Manas National Park in 1996 for starting the breeding programme.
    • The success of the initial programme has led to subsequent efforts.
      • Between 2008 and 2020, scientists released 130 pygmy hogs into two national parks, Manas and Orang, and two wildlife sanctuaries, Barnadi and Sonai Rupai, all in Assam.
      • By 2025, the PHCP plans to release 60 pygmy hogs in Manas.
    • Apart from captive breeding, habitat management in these reintroduction sites was important before the animals were released.
    • To track them, researchers use field signs of released hogs (footprints, nests, foraging marks, droppings, etc.) and some of them are radio-tracked as well.
    • Single Population Analysis and Record Keeping Systems (SPARKS) and Population Management (PMx) are some tools through which the suitability factor between a couple is determined to manage the demography and genetic quality.
      • SPARKS is a programme that stores information about the life history of each animal, while PMx offers potential outcomes, like pairings, increasing generation length, etc.
    • Experts have been working on a ‘Re-wild project’ in Manas on grassland management and restoration.
      • It aims to restore the ecosystem by 2025, the 100th birth anniversary of Gerald Durrell’s.

     

    Source: TH