''Extinct'' pygmy hog being reinducted in Assam forest

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Guwahati, May 11 (UNI) The Pygmy Hog, the world's smallest pig and one of the most endangered species of the planet, is successfully being bred in captivity and reinducted into a forest in Assam, after being declared ''extinct'' in the 1960s.

After 12 years of a mammoth conservation programme, which began with six wild pygmy hogs, Assam Forest officials, along with experts of the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCP), released 16 pygmy hogs into the the Sonai Rupai forest, about 175 kms north of Guwahati, on May 9.

''This is an extremely important day in the history of animal conservation throughout the world and the Assam Forest department is proud of its achievement,'' Chief Wildlife Warden M C Malakar said.

Mr Malakar was one of the officials who supervised the entire process up to the release of the animals.

However, the success of the mission could be mainly attributed to Dr Gautam Narayan, of Eco-Systems India, who literally lived with the animals for the past 12 years, along with a dedicated team.

With the support of the Durrel Wildlife Conservation Trust (DWCT), Dr Narayan acheived the almost impossible feat.

''By 1964, the pygmy hog was thought to be extinct as no expert had cited it for several years. Later, in 1971, four pygmy hogs were recovered from a market in Paneri in North Assam, alerting the world about the news that the Pygmy Hog had found a habitat in the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary as well as the foothills of Bhutan,'' Dr Narayan said.

''There are less than 400 pygmy hogs in the world and all of them are in Manas, from where, six of them were captured in 1998 and the conservation programme was started,'' he added.

''The present 16 animals are the result of the only captive population of the species in the world,'' he informed.

The pygmy hog (Porcula salvania) is the world's smallest pig, standing about 25-30 cm from the ground, and was once common across India, Nepal and Bhutan but was thought to be extinct by the 1960s.

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