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Pygmy Hog
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Suidae
Genus: Porcula
Hodgson, 1847
Species: P. salvania
Binomial name
Porcula salvania
Hodgson, 1847
Synonyms
Sus salvanius

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 improved the prospects of survival in the wild of this critically endangered species.

Contents

Description and biology

PorculaSalvaniaSmit.jpg

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 (Hodgson, 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.[2]

Status

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 (Sus scrofa) in India.

Conservation

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).

Notes

  1. ^ Narayan, G., Deka, P. & Oliver, W. (2008). Porcula salvania. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 5 April 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of critically endangered.
  2. ^ Horsfield, Thomas 1849. Brief Notice of several Mammalia and Birds discovered by B. H. Hodgson, Esq., in Upper India. Annals of the Magazine of Natural History. Volume 3: 202 Scanned text

References

External links

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