Pygmy hog

India rewilds Pygmy hogs thought extinct

In the mid 20th century, the rare 10 inch-tall Pygmy Hog was thought to be extinct. Thanks to the efforts of the PHCP, (the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme), and other groups like the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, pygmy hogs are being given a second chance.

The timid, diminutive pygmy hog, is found only in the southern foothills of the Himalayas, and is the smallest known species of hog. The burning of its grassland territory to provide pasture for cows and agriculture, has resulted in an endangered population of only a few hundred found in Assam, India. Pygmy hogs previously lived in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Northern West Bengal as well.

The PHCP program had its genesis when a small band of hogs was found in 1971, and 12 pygmy hogs were purchased at a local market by a tea estate manager. Afterwards the conservationist, Gerald Durrell, was contacted. Since then over 100 baby hogs have been released in Orang National Park, and the Barnadi, and Sonai-Rupai Wildlife Sanctuaries in Assam, and the Bhuyanpara range in West Bengal by the PHCP. Baby hogs are carefully reared and do not become accustomed to human contact. The organization hopes to see up to 200 yearlings rewilded into Assam, India area parks, by 2025.

Before releasing year-old hogs, conservationists must duplicate the pygmy hogs’ original grassland habitat including rivers, mineral deposits, native grass and plants; rather than the weeds resulting from controlled burns. That is hard to do when grasslands are presently fragmented, and under threat. Today there is less than a mile of the required land left near Assam however, by 2025, the Manas National Park is expected to have 11 miles of grassland, restored to its original state.

The PHCP also had to recover from another setback, when Swine fever and Covid-19 concerns surfaced. Since then strict measures have been instituted, for all programme staff, and equipment.

Behavior and physiology

Adult pygmy hogs, weigh only about 12 lbs (5 kg), and have other predators to be wary of other than man. Snakes, birds, and wildcats are among their enemies. So, to keep themselves and their offspring safe, adults build nests of grass in hollows. The roofs of these grass nests, make it more difficult for naturalists to find them. Most recently very small microchips have been implanted to track the hogs in the programme.  

The average lifespan of pygmy hogs in the wild is about eight years. They become adults after one or two years, and their litters of babies number between three and six piglets. Pygmy hogs eat insects, small reptiles, rodents, and roots and tubers.

Sources

Pig in clover: how the world’s smallest wild hog was saved from extinction. (2021, March 3). Guardian News & Media Limited. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/03/how-the-pygmy-hog-was-saved-from-extinction-aoe

Rare pygmy hogs released into the wild. (2020, May 19). Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. https://www.durrell.org/wildlife/news/rare-pygmy-hogs-released-wild/

World’s tiniest pig, once thought extinct, returning to the wild (2021, May 26). National Geographic Society. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/worlds-tiniest-pig-returning-to-the-wild

Pygmy hogs. (2008, February). Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmy_hog

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