A few years ago I had the privilege of spending two weeks in the province of Assam in North-eastern India documenting the 100th Pygmy Hog release for Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust based in Jersey. The work being done to save this critically endangered species is just amazing.
The Week Junior is a current affairs magazine for 8–14 year olds. It’s filled with fascinating stories and information, written to engage curious minds. In the latest issue of this magazine the Pygmy Hog has been chosen as part of the “Good Week” section.
So with the recent media coverage in The Week Junior and The Guardian I wanted to share a few photos and videos from my time photographing this amazing project. While also bringing the plight of this beautiful little hog to the public’s attention once more.
The Pygmy Hog lives in the southern foothills of the Himalayas. In the 1960’s numbers had declined to such an extent that the species was thought to be extinct. Following a fire in the Barnardi Forest Reserve in 1971, a group of Pygmy Hogs were found seeking refuge in a nearby tea plantation.
The plantation owner took these mini pigs into captivity to protect them from local hunters and called on the assistance of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust to advise on managing the newly formed captive population.
Rediscovery of the hogs sparked lots of interest and in 1977, Durrell staff member William Oliver began conducting surveys to establish the distribution and status of the species.
Further groups of Pygmy Hogs were found surviving in the Barnardi Forest Reserve as well as the Manas National Park and other isolated areas of northern Assam.
Sadly due to pressures on the grasslands the species continued to decline and in 1995 there was only one viable wild population surviving in Manas National Park.
Thanks to the relentless efforts of William and local partners it was recognised that without immediate conservation intervention the species was at risk of extinction. So in 1995 key partners came together to form the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme.
Working with Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust this amazing project was born. To date they’ve released well over a hundred captive bred Pygmy Hogs back into the wild which is absolutely fantastic.
It is the rarest, smallest and the most critically endangered wild pig species found in the world. It is the sole surviving representative of the ‘Porcula’ genus. If the pygmy hog was to be lost then an entire evolutionary branch of the pig family would be lost.
The story of the Pygmy Hog is a fascinating one and shows the power of working together alongside local people. With specialist captive breeding centers literally saving a species from the brink of extinction.
If you’d like to read the original blog I wrote about the 100th release and see the incredible work Durrell and their partners are doing to save this species then click here.
Pygmy Hogs make small nests in the ground by digging a small trench and lining it with vegetation. They use leaves and other soft materials to then make it really cosy inside. During the heat of the day, they stay within these nests. They also use them to hide away their young from predators and other dangers.
It was an absolute amazing project to witness and I really loved spending time and learning the behaviours of those enduring Pygmy Hogs. All my images were of the Pygmy Hogs born into this captive breeding programme.
They have little or no contact with humans and so are incredibly wary and shy of people. Staff there built me a screen so I could take my photos and videos from behind to minimise any disturbance.
This captive breeding programme isn’t a zoo, it’s off limits to the public and those young born in captivity, when the time is right are repatriated back into the wild to increase with wild population.
I learnt so much about this project while I was there and it has to be the blueprint to saving those species that are in real danger of disappearing from our world through extinction. Working with local people and stakeholders everyone joins forces to save their own wildlife and it was just inspiring to witness this.
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust like so many charities over the last twelve months have really suffered due to the pandemic. I wanted to highlight the brilliant work they are doing with this post. If you’d like to help them, donate or would like to learn more about their increable work then click here to be taken to their website.
If you’d like to read some of my other conservation photography projects I’ve helped with then please click here