Pig tales

The number of pygmy hogs is dwindling due to rampant poaching. In India, they are present only in two wildlife sanctuaries. Sukhendu Bhattacharya reports

THERE is good news for nature lovers. Pygmy hogs (tiny wild pigs) feared to have disappeared from forests are not extinct. Known to be present in a few numbers only in two wildlife sanctuaries of Assam in the entire world, the pygmy hog may be one of the prized members once again in the Bornodi wildlife sanctuary in Assam. Seven nests believed to be that of the hogs were found early this year, raising prospects of the presence of the shy tiny creatures in this remote but picturesque 26-sq-km sanctuary stretching along the foothills of Bhutan.

Located near the Mangaldoi township is the sanctuary, which is otherwise known among the researchers as the home of another most endangered species in the world, the slow loris.

"Due to its remoteness and deplorable road condition we have very few tourists with only research people mostly from southern India, occasionally visiting the park", says Mangaldoi wildlife division divisional forest officer M Momin.

Excited over the prospect of the discovery of the nests, Momin claims that the Forest Department examined all aspects before coming to the conclusion that those belonged to pygmy hogs.

Although the habitats of wild boar and the pygmy hog look almost the same, the shrub by which the nests are made are different, he says.

"Experts have also tested the droppings of the animals which has been sent to the competent authorities, including the pygmy conservation centre in Guwahati and veterinary institutes to confirm the presence of one of the world’s rarest creatures", the DFO says.

"We are awaiting their reply but going by the findings and the sighting of two pygmy hogs by a forester a couple of months back inside the sanctuary has given us a lot of heart", Momin says.

Pygmy hog, believed to be present only in the Manas Wildlife sanctuary, a world heritage site, and Bornodi in the entire world has a tragic tale. With almost the entire species feared to have been wiped out experts were forced to build the conservation centre in Guwahati, which has been hugely successful in captive breeding of the animal. The same is the story with Bornodi with the animal sighted way back in 1987 and since then there was no trace until a couple of months back, Momin says.

On the reason for their fast dwindling numbers, the forester says that pygmy hogs were easily poached as they are not fast runners. Being tiny, almost like a mouse, the creatures are difficult to be traced inside the thick jungles leading to the assumption that they might have been totally wiped out, he says.

The frequent setting fire to the forest areas by the villagers is another reason for their dwindling numbers, Momin says. "We have adopted precaution this time to ensure that the pygmy hog stays and sought necessary help and guidance from the authorities to build a congenial habitat this time", he says.

Rabiram Boro, a nature lover and resident of Tangla township, near Bornodi, says it was really great that the animals have been sighted once again. "The people in the area have understood the futility of poaching and that too of such an endangered species and this time we are going to ensure they stay", Boro says. The Bornodi sanctuary comprises two reserve forests of Khalingduar and Nonai. — PTI