A total of 8 pygmy hogs were released at Manas National Park on Tuesday by the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme. The organization has planned to release 12 pygmy hogs at Manas in two phases on June 22 and June 25.
The organization released 8 pygmy hogs in the first phase.
"This is the second batch of pygmy hogs released in the park, after successful release of 14 pygmy hogs last year. By 2025, the PHCP plans to release a target of 60 pygmy hogs in Manas," leading environmental NGO Aaranyak said in a statement.
The iconic species now returns to their home where their last original population still survives, albeit in declined numbers.
With this release, the total number of pygmy hogs reintroduced into the wild by the PHCP has reached to 142 (67 males, 75 females) which is more than their current original global wild population, the statement said.
In 1996, six hogs (2 male and 4 female) were captured from Bansbari range of Manas National Park to start the highly successful breeding programme.
Later, a young male rescued in 2001, and another male and two females captured in 2013 from the same range joined the captive breeding stock.
However, reintroduction of captive hogs in the wild began in 2008.
Initially, three protected areas in their historical distribution range in Assam were selected for better protection and restoration of alluvial grasslands.
Over the next decade, 35 hogs (18 male, 17 female) were released in Sonai-Rupai Wildlife Sanctuary, 59 (26 male, 33 female) in Orang National Park, and 22 (11 male, 11 female) in Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary, a report said.
"The reintroductions in Orang National Park have been particularly successful as they have multiplied almost two and a half times in number, and have spread to areas far from release locations," the statement said.
As part of its re-wilding strategy, the PHCP will continue to maintain about 70 captive hogs at its two centres in Assam and breed more hogs for release, the report stated.
The pygmy hog (Porcula salvania) is the world's smallest and rarest wild pigs, which are highly threatened.
It has been a tough year as the outbreak of both coronavirus and African Swine Fever have posed major challenges for the PHCP, and the successful release of the hogs.
Nonetheless, this release is a landmark achievement and is the key step on the road to the establishment of a new sub-population of pygmy hogs in Manas National Park.
It has been estimated that with the release of these 12 (5 male, 7 female) hogs in Rupahi grasslands in the Bhuyanpara range of Manas National Park, the total number of reintroduced hogs and their progeny may have reached 200 in the four release sites.
Amal Chandra Sarma, field director, Manas Tiger Reserve said, "In recent years, Manas is really doing well in conservation and with the release of these hogs in Bhuyanpara range, the hog population will be increased, and this may attract more visitors to the Park."