The pygmy hog (Porcula salvania) is the smallest and most threatened of the world’s wild pigs. Primary threats to the pygmy hog and its native grasslands across Assam, India, are loss and degradation of habitat due to human settlement and agricultural encroachment. In 1971, the species was on the brink of extinction with a single declining population in Manas Tiger Reserve. Following a period of observation and research, the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCP) was established with the long-term vision of saving this Critically Endangered species from extinction and restoring it to a series of protected grasslands within its historical range.
In 1996 six hogs were taken into captivity and over the past two decades, PHCP has become one of the most successful re-introduction programs globally. The program has learned to effectively breed pygmy hogs in captivity (>400 live births), released 116 animals back into three protected areas and supported measures that have significantly improved the management of protected grasslands and reduced human-wildlife conflict in the region. The project has also had a positive influence on other species of conservation concern and raised the profile of grasslands as important ecosystems for regulating hydrological functions. Establishing the captive programme required detailed biological and behavioural studies, which in turn needed the skills present within zoos. Since the inception of the breeding programme the team in India have worked closely with colleagues in Jersey Zoo and Durrell’s Conservation Academy to develop core skills and facilities required to breed/release pygmy hogs.
29 hogs have been released into the wild between 2015-2018, increasing total population of released hogs by 25%. Educational and engagement activities have reached more than 400 local students and visitors to the Potasali centre. Local capacity building activities have improved knowledge and skills of more than 300 forestry personnel. The zoo also have camera trap evidence demonstrating that released hogs are breeding in the wild – an enormous achievement and huge step forward in securing a future in the wild for this Critically Endangered species. Jersey Zoo entered this project for the BIAZA Conservation Award category 2019 and won a Gold award.