Pygmy hog (Porcula salvania) is an endangered species of small wild pig, previously spread across India, Nepal, and Bhutan but now only found in Assam. The current world population is about 150 individuals or fewer. Recent conservation measures have increased the prospect of survival in the wild of this critically endangered species.
Description and biology
They are about 55 to 71 cm long and stand at 20-30 cm with a tail of 2.5 cm. They weigh 6.6 to 11.8 kilograms. Their skin is dark brownish black and the fur is dark. Piglets are born grayish-pink becoming brown with yellow stripes along the body length. The head is sharply tapered and they have a slight crest of hair on the forehead and on the back of the neck. Adult males have the upper canines visible on the sides of the mouth. They live for about 8 years, becoming sexually mature at 1-2 years. They breed seasonally before the monsoons giving birth to a litter of 3-6 after a gestation of 100 days. In the wild they make small nests by digging a small trench and lining it with vegetation. During the heat of the day they stay within these nests. They feed on roots, tubers, insects, rodents, and small reptiles.
Taxonomy and systematics
The species was first described as the only member of the genus Porcula
, 1847), but was then regarded as the closest relative of the Eurasian pig Sus scrofa
and named Sus salvanius
(Oliver, 1980; Oliver & Deb Roy, 1993). New genetic analysis of a large section of mitochondrial DNA supports with high statistical power the original classification of the pygmy hog as a unique genus (Funk et al., 2007). The resurrection of the original genus status and the species name Porcula salvania
has been adopted by GenBank
. The species name salvania
is after the Sal forests where it was found.
The pygmy hog is the sole representative of Porcula
, making the conservation of this critically endangered species even more important as its extinction would result in the loss of a unique evolutionary branch of pigs.
They used to be widespread in the tall, wet grasslands in the southern Himalayan foothills from Uttar Pradesh to Assam, through Nepal and north Bengal. However, human encroachment has largely destroyed the natural habitat of the pygmy hog by development, agriculture, domestic grazing and deliberate fires. Only one viable population remains in the Manas Tiger Reserve, but even there threats due to livestock grazing, poaching and fire persist. The total wild population has been estimated as less than 150 animals and the species is listed as "critically endangered" (Oliver, 1980; Oliver & Deb Roy, 1993; Pigs, Peccaries and Hippos Status Survey and Action Plan, 1993; Narayan, 2006). Their rarity contrasts greatly with the massive population of wild boars
) in India.
Conservation of the species has been hampered due to the lack of public support, unlike that for charismatic South Asian mammals
like the Bengal Tiger
or Indian Rhino
. Local political unrest in the area has also severely hampered effective conservation efforts, but these conflicts have now ceased.
Pygmy hogs were exhibited in the zoos of London and Berlin in the 19th century. However, this captivity was not aimed at conservation, and none of the captive populations survived. Zürich Zoo exhibited pygmy hogs from 1976 to 1978, but all females died. The success of captive breeding dramatically increased after the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme, PHCP, was established in 1995. The PHCP was established under the umbrella of a formal 'International Conservation Management and Research Agreement' by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
, the IUCN
's Pigs, Peccaries and Hippo Specialist Group, the Forest Department, Government of Assam, and the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
has launched a comprehensive conservation strategy including field status surveys of pygmy hogs and their habitats, behavioural studies, personnel training, local community awareness and assistance programmes and the establishment of a highly successful captive breeding program at the Pygmy Hog Research and Breeding Centre in Assam. Active habitat management has been established and a reintroduction programme has now been launched (Narayan, 2006).
- Entry on "Pygmy Hog - Sus salvanius"; United Nations Environment Programme; World Conservation Monitoring Centre
- ARKive - images and movies of the pygmy hog (Sus salvanius)
- GeneBank - Porcula salvania
- Pygmy hog entry
- The Times (Jan 2007) - This little piggy is back from brink
- Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust -
- Pygmy hog saved and ready for release, 12th May 2008, Durrell News, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
- Captive-bred pygmy hogs to be relocated; Guwahati, May 12, 2008, The Assam Tribune, India
- Endangered pygmy hogs released into wild, May 09, 2008, By Paul Eccleston, Telegraph, UK
- Rare pygmy hogs head for the wild, By Subir Bhaumik, Monday, 19 May 2008, BBC News, Calcutta, India