3. Pigmy hog rescue

Posted: 23 March 2001

The pigmy hog (Sus salvanius) is the world's smallest, rarest and probably the most specialised wild pig. It is also an important 'indicator species' - that is one of the first to disappear in a disturbed area (including many so-called protected areas).

Indeed, it has already disappeared in many areas which continue to support more familiar species, and in many cases less immediately threatened species, such as elephants, tiger, wild buffalo and even rhino.

Pigmy hog© Flora and Fauna InternationalApart from the obvious loss of habitat from human expansion, the evidence suggests that this is due to widespread annual burning of grasslands and other factors which reduce species diversity. In any event the pigmy hog has disappeared from over 99 per cent of its former range and now survives in only one (Manas National Park), or possibly two (the Subankhata Reserve Forest) - both near India's northern border with Bhutan. Baby hog© Flora and Fauna International These are not places where it is safe to hang around, owing to continuing, severe local insurgency problems, which hamper radio-tracking and other field studies. But the Pigmy Hog Conservation Programme has been remarkably successful in its captive breeding programme. This has increased numbers from 6 animals captured in Manas in April 1996 to 63 animals at the end of 2000: an increase of over 1,000 per cent in less than five years.

It is hoped to start a second breeding centre later this year and start a series of reintroduction projects in the near future.

William Oliver

William Oliver is Chairman of the World Conservation Union's Pigs, Peccaries and Hippo Specialist Group; South East Asia Regional Co-ordinator of the Deer Specialist Group; and Director of Fauna and Flora International 'Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Programme'.