By Sushanta Talukdar
The smallest and rarest wild pig has been listed as critically-endangered.
A survey conducted by the Assam Forest Department in the Manas National Park (MNP) has detected an estimated 21 nests of the critically-endangered pygmy hog (Porcula salvania).
The nests of pygmy hog — the smallest and rarest wild pig — were found in three separate locations. The survey also found pellets of the Hispid hare (Caprolagus hispidus) in almost all of 17 camp site locations, where the study was conducted for grassland species from March 18 to March 22.
Deputy Director of Manas Tiger Reserve Sonali Ghosh told The Hindu that Manas is known to be the last remaining wild habitat of the pygmy hog in the world.
“The finding of the survey is highly encouraging as the number of pygmy hogs was thought to be declining in number at the Park. Both Pygmy hog and Hispid Hare are Schedule I species. The pygmy hog nests were live with indications of the activity of this highly-endangered species, including droppings of the species,” said Dr. Ghosh, who was also a member of the survey team. Schedule I and Schedule II species are given absolute protection under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and offences against them attract heavy penalties.
Dr. Ghosh said pygmy hogs captured from Manas and captive-bred at Pygmy Hog Conservation Centre at Basistha in Guwahati had been released into the Orang National Park, Sonai Rupai wildlife sanctuary and Nameri Tiger Reserve in the State.
Other members of the survey team included grassland experts — Dr. Bibhuti Lahkar from Aaranyak, Dr. Gitanjali Banerji from Zoological Society of London, and Dr. Kaushik Deuti from the Zoological Survey of India besides researchers working in the World Heritage Site.
GPS-based method usedDr. Ghosh said that GPS-based sign survey method was used in Bansbari and Bhuyanpara ranges of MNP to look for indirect signs such as pygmy hog droppings, nests and Hispid hare pellets and feeding signs.
Dr. Bibhuti Lahkar stated that wet alluvial grasslands dominated by Barenga (Saccharum narenga), Ulu (Imperata cylindrica) species under the two ranges were critical for survival of pygmy hog. These grasses must be protected by taking suitable measures such as early mosaic burning and systematic removal of anthropogenic pressure such as grazing domestic animal from nearby villages and the spread of invasive species, Dr. Lahkar said.
During the rapid survey, direct evidence was also obtained for other grassland species such as hog deer (Hyelaphus porcinus), swamp deer (Rucervus duvaucelii), and Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis), he added.