| A pygmy hog |
Guwahati, Sept. 5: The Assam forest department has turned down a request from Bengal for pygmy hogs. Last year, it had rejected a similar request for rhinos.
The West Bengal forest department had decided to reintroduce pygmy hogs in the grasslands of the Gorumara National Park in north Bengal after the Zoological Survey of India’s (ZSI) recommendation on its feasibility.
The Bengal forest department had requested for four males and eight females. The pygmy hog (Porcula salvania) is the world’s rarest wild hog and the most endangered.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in fact, has categorised the pygmy hog as “critically endangered” and is also listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act.
“We do not have adequate number of hogs till 2014 to give Bengal,” Assam chief wildlife warden Suresh Chand told The Telegraph. Chand said this was based on the information provided by the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCP), a collaborative project of Durrell with IUCN/SSC Pigs Peccaries and Hippos Specialist Group, Assam forest department and ministry of environment and forests.
“They (PHCP) had told us that it has to be done under a joint collaborative programme between Assam and West Bengal involving all stakeholders,” Chand said.
Gautam Narayan, the programme project director, said a lot of studies, including habitat, have to be done before it can be released in another place. “We have already released 60 hogs at Sonai-Rupai wildlife sanctuary and Orang National Park,” he said.
Narayan said the programme began in 1996 when six pygmy hogs were captured from Manas National Park and now their number is 60, which is a good increase from the founder population captured from the wild.
Narayan said they have got permission from the forest department to capture a few hogs from Manas as the condition is now improving. The 2011 mission report of the Unesco and World Heritage Convention on Manas said the population estimates vary from 200-300 to 1,000, but are likely at the lower end of that range.
Last year, Bengal had requested for 20 female rhinos from Assam but that was also turned down.
The main threats to survival of pygmy hog are loss and degradation of habitat because of human settlements, agricultural encroachments, dry-season burning, livestock grazing, commercial forestry and flood control schemes.
The pygmy hog wild population is now only restricted to Manas in the world.