The pygmy hog is a critically endangered species of wild pig which was once widely distributed across Southeast Asia. As of 2008, around 150 pygmy hogs were known to exist in a population restricted to Assam, India, and several conservation parks. Radical conservation measures have been put in place to protect these unique animals; they attracted a great deal of public attention in early 2008 when several pygmy hogs were released into the wild to bolster the wild population.
These animals are formally known by the epithet Porcula salvania. The pygmy hog is the sole surviving representative of the Porcula genus, making it an especially unique animal. With the loss of the pygmy hog, an entire evolutionary branch of the pig family would be lost, which many scientists agree would be an unfortunate turn of events. The pygmy hog is also the smallest known pig in the world, weighing in at around 10 pounds (a little over eight kilograms).
Adult pygmy hogs have dark brown to black skin, overlaid by a coat of dark fur. Their heads are distinctively tapered, with a crest of hair on the top of the head and the back of the neck. Younger pigs are marked with stripes which fade with age; as a general rule, the pygmy hog lives around eight years, reaching sexual maturity at two to three years.
These animals are omnivores, eating a wide assortment of tubers, plants, insects, and small animals. Their once wide range has been primarily restricted through human activity. People put pressure on the pigs by hunting them, destroying their habitat, and raising animals which compete for resources with the pygmy hog. The pygmy hog's lot in life has also been threatened by civil and social unrest, which makes it hard to keep an eye on the population of the animals.
In fact, people once thought that the pygmy hog was extinct in the wild. Through the efforts of the Durrell Wildlife Trust in cooperation with local conservation organizations, however, a small population was discovered in Northern India. In 1995, several individuals were captured for a breeding program, in the hopes of saving the species before it vanished entirely.
As with other critically endangered species, trade in pygmy hogs is severely restricted; conservation parks may only raise them by approval, with such parks typically trading animals periodically to maintain genetic diversity. It is also illegal to hunt the pygmy hog.