GUWAHATI: Manas National Park and Tiger Reserve can now boast of 54 pygmy hogs in its habitat after 18 captive-bred and rare wild pigs were released in the park on Saturday.
Spearheaded by the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCP), this initiative marked the fourth such effort in recent years after 2020, 2021, and 2022. Under the programme, the target is to reintroduce 60 of them into their natural habitat by 2025.
Expressing joy over the reintroduction, Manas Field Director, Rajen Choudhury, said, “This release will boost the rewilding of Manas’ grasslands, bringing back its glory and benefiting all grassland-associated species.”
Originally thought to be extinct in the 1970s, the critically endangered species is experiencing a revival, thanks to the combined efforts of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the IUCN/SSC Wild Pig Specialist Group, Assam Forest Department, the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests, Ecosystems-India, and Aaranyak, a biodiversity conservation organisation. Their collective dedication has seen the successful breeding and reintroduction of 170 hogs in Assam.
The conservation journey began in 1996 when the PHCP captured a pair of pygmy hogs from Manas National Park. Their reintroduction to the wild commenced in 2008. The programme has since diversified its efforts, expanding beyond Manas Park to areas such as Orang National Park, which now boasts an estimated 130 wild-born hogs from an initial release of 59 between 2011 and 2015.
Dr Parag Jyoti Deka, PHCP Project Director, while highlighting the significant impact the programme, said, “The results from Orang National Park (ONP) show that our captive breeding and release programmes can save species from extinction. We’ve restored a self-sustaining pygmy hog population and brought back an integral part of the ecosystem of ONP grasslands.”
Despite challenges posed by the Coronavirus and African Swine Fever over the past three years, the PHCP’s achievement marks a significant step in restoring pygmy hogs to their historical habitat.
Dr Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, CEO of Aaranyak, concluded, “This result encourages the entire conservation community to dedicate more towards species recovery. The continued reintroduction effort will help not only in population building but also in securing their home.”