The pygmy hog (Porcula salvania) is a critically endangered wild suid historically widespread in the Himalyan foothills but now found only in Assam. It is the sole member of the genus porcula, the rarest of all swine species, and an important indicator of habitat health in the tall grass wetlands that it inhabits. In 1995 the Pygmy Hog Conservation Program (PHCP) was established through collaboration between Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, IUCN’s Pigs, Peccaries and Hippo Specialist Group, the Forest Department, Government of Assam, and the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.
Through the efforts of PHCP, pygmy hogs have been successfully bred in captivity, and over 100 individuals have been released into suitable habitat in parks and sanctuaries within Assam. Camera traps have been used to track outcomes of these releases, but the dense tall grasses amongst which the pygmy hog lives makes follow-up monitoring challenging.
Recently, Drs. Chris Walzer (Wildlife Conservation Society) PK Walzer (CSN) and Endre Sòs (Budapest Zoo) travelled to Assam and partnered with PHCP colleagues Drs. Goutam Narayan and Parag Deka to perform surgical implantation of novel radio-telemetry transmitters in four pygmy hogs. The goal of these procedures is to enhance opportunity and efficacy of tracking these small and elusive animals after their release. These initial individuals will be tracked following their release in December 2017, and, based on the outcomes, more transmitters may be placed in future release candidates.
A few days ago we received a text message from Parag to let us know that two individuals have been successfully released into Orang NP. Tracking is going well and as expected. This effort represents a rewarding cross-pollination of ideas and experience and will hopefully enhance post-release assessment for this important conservation program.
PK & Chris December 2017