The Himalaya foothills are home to an adorable endangered pig. This animal stands only 10 inches tall when fully grown, and its babies will fit into your pockets. The pygmy hog used to run wild throughout India, Nepal, and Bhutan.
After a century of habitat destruction, the world’s tiniest pig was pushed from its home. Consequently, many thought that the tiny feral hog was extinct. But, in 1971, it was “rediscovered” to the joy of scientists.
Starting in the 1990s, conservationists began to catch wild animals and breed them in captivity. Eventually, they began releasing them back into northeastern India. The population took hold and has been surviving there ever since.
Now, almost thirty years later, the pigs are doing well, reports say. There are between 300 and 400 of them running free in the wilds of India now. Additionally, there are 76 of them in captivity. All in all, the species, according to experts, is thriving.
More importantly, from 2008 to 2020, scientists were able to release 130 of the animals into two national parks. They also let some of them go into two wildlife sanctuaries. All four of these parks and sanctuaries are in Assam. There are plans in place to release 60 more over the next five years.
The World’s Smallest Pig Is Incredibly Unique
In the present day, there are only 17 species of wild pig in the world. Almost all of them are listed as endangered species.
But, the pygmy hog is perhaps the most special of all of the great hog species. Aside from its tiny size, it evolved from the genus Porcula. Matthew Linkie, Asia coordinator for the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Wild Pig Specialist Group, spoke about the uniqueness of the animal.
“If we were to lose this species,” Linkie noted, “then we’d lose an entire genus and millions of years of its evolution in an instant.”
The conservation program that he works for is focused on ensuring the survival of the tiny hog. He said that the hogs were susceptible to a variety of African swine fevers. But, he was highly complimentary of how well the group handled the pigs’ safety. This was all while dealing with the coronavirus.
“While the [African swine fever] virus has a high economic impact on the domestic swine industry, for pygmy hogs and other threatened species, it can mean the tip towards extinction,” the chair of the IUCN Wild Pig Specialist Group, Johanna Rode-Margono, said.
The common theme for all of the people working to restore the pig to habitat in India and across Asia is dedication. Each group is working hard to ensure the safety of the animals and giving them a fighting chance.
Parag Deka, project director of the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme, said that his group’s goal is to create land for the pygmy hogs to roam. Overall, the hope is to restore 11 miles of land in Manas National Park in the next four years. Deka noted that if this effort can happen, the tiny pig will be able to survive there on its own.