BORNADI (UDALGURI), Dec 20 - The critically-endangered pygmy hog has all but disappeared from its once-stronghold Bornadi Wildlife Sanctuary, thanks to rapid shrinkage and degradation of its grassland habitat. Invasion of Bornadi�s grasslands by invasive weed species had started about a decade back but the forest and government authorities turned a blind eye to the development and failed to intervene.
At present, grassland constitutes barely five per cent of Bornadi�s habitat, with the remaining grassland under increasing attack of invasive species such as Mikenia macrantha, Ageratum conyzoides, Mimosa invisa, Leea crispa, Lantana camara, Chromolaena odorata, Eupatorium odoratum, etc. This has drastically reduced food plants for the wild herbivores. Grazing of domestic cattle inside the sanctuary has also affected food availability for the wild animals.
�We have not come across any sign � let alone sighting � of any pygmy hog, including those reintroduced recently. There is hardly any grassland habitat left for this grassland dweller. Bornadi probably no longer shelters any pygmy hog,� a forest official told The Assam Tribune.
Not just the pygmy hog, the diminishing grassland has affected other animals as well, including deer. �There have been less sighting of several herbivore species, including deer and gaur (Indian bison). The pygmy hog has been the most vulnerable in such a scenario and without effective grassland management, it cannot survive,� he added.
The official added that a proposal for grassland restoration was pending with the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) authorities.
�Even though a number of captive-bred pygmy hogs have been reintroduced here, long-term survival of the species is bleak in view of the shrinking grassland. We have not seen any of the reintroduced animals nor seen any sign,� a frontline guard who does regular patrolling in the sanctuary said.
He added that the hispid hare had probably met with the same fate, with no sighting in recent years.
The elusive pygmy hog that featured in the first IUCN/WWF (1984) list of the 12 most threatened animal species in the world had catapulted Bornadi into global prominence following the rediscovery of the pygmy hog and hispid hare in 1971 (after both were thought to be extinct). However, no pygmy hog could be recorded at Bornadi since 1994 notwithstanding an occasional sighting of its scat, nest, etc.