GUWAHATI, March 24 � A survey of pygmy hog (Porcula salvania) and hispid hare (Caprolagus hispidus) in Manas National Park has yielded evidence of the two highly elusive mammals in perhaps what remains their last wild habitat. The only other wild habitat, i.e., Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary has been in a deplorable state, with conservationists doubting the existence of the pigmy hog there.
The five-day survey, which concluded on Sunday, was a collaborative endeavour comprising park officials and individual grassland experts, including Dr Bibhuti Lahkar from Aaranyak, Dr Gitanjali Banerji from Zoological Society of London, and Dr Kaushik Deuti from Zoological Survey of India, besides researchers and PhD students currently working in Manas.
A total of 17 camp sites under prime grassland habitat were surveyed under two ranges of Bansbari and Bhuyanpara respectively.
�GPS-based sign survey method was used to look for indirect signs such as pygmy hog droppings, nests and hispid hare pellets and feeding signs. Twenty nests of pygmy hog were detected from three separate locations. Hispid hare pellets were found almost on all camp site locations,� Dr Sonali Ghosh, Deputy Director, Manas National Park, told The Assam Tribune.
Besides, direct evidence was also obtained for other grassland obligate species such as hog deer (Hyelaphus porcinus), swamp deer (Rucervus duvaucelii), and Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis).
Dr Ghosh, who was part of the survey team, said that a detailed report would be submitted to the government soon. �This will include recommendations for making the population estimation an annual feature using non-invasive methods. It will also spell out specific conservation strategies to conserve the micro-sites,� she added.
Lauding the initiative by the forest department in conducting the survey, Dr Bibhuti Lahkar stressed the need for proper management of Manas� grassland in the face of anthropogenic pressures such as grazing and the spread of invasive species.
�Wet alluvial grasslands dominated by �barenga� (Saccharum narenga) and �ulu� (Imperata cylindrica) species under the two ranges are critical to long-term survival of pygmy hog and hence must be protected through suitable measures such as early mosaic burning and systematic removal of grazing and invasive species,� he said.
Field Director of Manas Tiger Reserve, Anindya Swargowary, expressed satisfaction over the preliminary results obtained, especially for the pygmy hog population which was thought to be rapidly dwindling in Manas.
�With this finding, Manas is back on track as the last stronghold for these endangered species in the wild. Populations of all the grassland species will need to be periodically monitored, for which the forest staff will be trained up appropriately, including on the use of indirect signs such as nests and droppings,� he said.