Today we are going to introduce you to an animal Durrell Wildlife have a very long history with. The pygmy hog. In fact it comes from the same place where Gerald Durrell was born. India!
The map above shows you where in the world you will find pygmy hogs. They are now confined to a small area in the Assam Valley below the Himalayas.
In fact the pygmy hog was thought to have gone extinct in the 1960s. Then in 1971 fourteen hogs were discovered and rescued from a fire by a tea plantation. They were taken into temporary captive facilities by the plantation manager. Durrell was asked to send out a member of staff to advise on the care of the captive hogs, set up a captive breeding programme, and find out what could be done to save the species.
In 1977 two wild hogs were caught and fitted with radio-tags to learn more about their behavior and ecology. Elephants were used to track the hogs.After many years of research it was clear that there was just a single population of only a few hundred adult hogs living in the highly threatened grasslands of Manas National Park.
Political unrest made access to Manas difficult and decline in suitable habitat due to the pressures on the grasslands through grazing and burning continue to impact this tiny population.
In 1996 fresh efforts with the captive breeding programme saw six more wild hogs caught up and moved to a custom-built research and breeding centre.
The video below shows how the team in India used elephants once again to help. This time the elephants were used to drive the hogs out of hiding and into the hands of staff to take to the breeding centre.
The video below shows the very first release of hogs
Twelve years later, after a lot of hard work, the three families of captive-bred pygmy hogs were released into the wild. The release site is in Sonai Rupai Wildlife Sanctuary where staff can monitor the hogs using camera traps and radio-transmitters.
Last year saw the 100th captive bred pygmy hog released into the wild. Here is Dr. Parag Jyoti Deka, the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme Manager, talking about the hogs. Go to Durrell's Facebook page and #TakeoverTuesday to learn more about Parag's work in Assam.
Dan Craven from Jersey Zoo was sent out to help with the release. I asked Dan some questions about his time with the hogs.
Name: Daniel Craven Occupation: Volunteer manager Durrell Wildlife Animal: Pygmy Hog Country: India
What made you want to work at Jersey Zoo? I wanted to spend my hours at work involved with a mission I can believe in. Durrell’s mission to save species from extinction ticks that box for me very well.
For something so small how did you find out about the pygmy hog project? The hog project has been running in one form or another since the early 1970’s when it was rediscovered by a Jersey man. As a fellow Jersey man who has visited India many times I naturally found myself interested in this project that Durrell has been involved with from the start.
You visited India last year to help release the 100th pygmy hog into the wild. What was your favourite thing about the trip? The people involved in the release are inspiring and it was wonderful to be a part of that. Assam in north east India is a remote and wonderful place to visit with really great wildlife, natural beauty and tea!
Did you meet any other species whilst working there? Assam has a whole host of wonderful species and the elephants, buffalo, rhinos, wild boar, and different birds I was able to see painted a brilliant picture of biodiversity.
On a scale of 1 to 10 how cute are the baby hogs? 11 – Check out Durrells underhogs and see for yourself!
Here is the documentary Dan and the team made about his time in India and why the pygmy hog is love so much by Durrell. It is 45 minutes long. Well worth the watch!
Durrell is an international wildlife conservation charity. We have our headquarters at Jersey Zoo. The zoo was established in 1959 by the late Gerald Durrell. We're on a mission to save species from extinction. We work on 50 different species conservation programmes across 14 countries including Jersey!