-Shivani Thakkur

2007 is the year of the pig according to Chinese astrology. The pig is considered to be a gentle creature and generally brings positive energy to all. Thus the qualities of that animal, which the year belongs to, influences the whole year. Although we keep hearing of poaching and dwindling numbers of various species, the start of this year brought some good news for all wildlife enthusiasts.

The Pygmy Hog once considered to be extinct for over 40 years has made a comeback. The pygmy hog is the smallest pig in the world. Once upon a time, it was found widely across India, Nepal, and Bhutan. But by 1960’s it was believed that the hog’s population had been lost. A chance discovery of two small population found in Manas National Park in Assam in 1971 gave a ray of hope. At that time there were only 100 of the species left. The reasons for this decline had been simply poaching and loss of habitat.

The pygmy hog weighs just 8 to 10 kgs and stands tall at 12 inches. It lives in the grasslands and feeds on roots, tubes, vegetable matter and insects. Here the similarity with the regular farmyard pig ends .Its DNA is verily different from other hogs. In fact Gerald Durrell, a naturalist and an author,  proposes to take it of from family tree of the genus Salvanius to new genus Porcula Salvanius. This means that they are as different from warthogs and pigs as any horse is from a donkey.

Even after finding those small populations they were confined to Manas wildlife sanctuary. It was in 1995, Durerll Wildlife ,a zoo founded by Gerald Durrell Jersey UK, along with Indian authorities and World Conservation Union started a programme. Here an observation has to made that the years 1971,1995 and 2007 are all years of the pig and these can be marked as significant in the life of the pygmy hog.

They captured six pygmy hogs for conservation. The programme was so successful that there are now about 70 to 80 of these shy animals. Dr.Goutam Narayan project director of Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCH) says it has been the world’s most successful breeding programmes of the wild.

Dr. Narayan along with Durrell wildlife are about to release 10 animals in the semi-wild in Sonai Rupai Wildlife sanctuary and Nameri National park. They will be kept in a pre release centre near Nameri for them to get acclimatized to life without human support. But the danger still persists in the form of large scale human encroachments in the Sonai Rupai sanctuary. It may be disheartening but the determination and dedication of these activists in achieving their target cannot destroy their efforts. So we all can hope for their success to be incorporated in other ongoing conservation programmes and expect this year to bring glory. Hence, start this year of the pig with aplomb.

 ( Picture: The pygmy hog of Assam-credit durrelwildlife.org )


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