‘British naturalist Gerald Durrell wanted to breed Assam’s pygmy hog in his zoo’

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‘British naturalist Gerald Durrell wanted to breed Assam’s pygmy hog in his zoo’

Kolkata, April 12 (IANS) India-born, late British naturalist and author Gerald Durrell, who took a keen interest in conservation of the pygmy hog in Assam, had wanted his famed Jersey Zoo in Britain, to breed the world’s smallest and rarest pig, his widow Lee Durrell said here on Wednesday.

Once thought to be extinct, the 100th captive-bred pygmy hog was released into the wild in 2016 thanks to a breeding and release programme in northeast India supported by Durrell’s organisation.

“He always wanted for us to have pygmy hogs in Jersey zoo (now Durrell Wildlife Park), he wanted to breed them there but for a variety of reasons that couldn’t happen.

“When the pygmy hogs were rediscovered in a tea estate in the 1970s, it just took Gerry’s heart. Maybe because it was from India,” Lee, the Director of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, told IANS here at the Indian Museum.

“I would love to have them in Jersey because of the history of the project. I would do it, if needed, to tell the story if it aids the programme in some way,” she said while touring the museum’s natural history exhibit.

Lee, who is on her first trip to India and will be making a stopover at Jamshedpur where he was born in 1925, also paid a visit to the pygmy hog conservation project site in Assam last week.

“To bring in any wild cloven hoofed animal (cleft hoof), like the hog to Jersey, you cannot do that directly, you are not allowed by authorities so you have to have them breed in captivity in another zoo, say another zoo in Europe… but that didn’t happen. We worked with the Zurich zoo in the 1970s but they (hogs) didn’t survive,” she said.

Durrell founded Jersey Zoo in Jersey in the Channel Islands in 1959 as the first-ever conservation-themed zoo. In 1963, it became a charitable trust and was renamed Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in 1999. It works in 18 countries, mainly in tropical regions, with an emphasis on islands.

The pygmy hog conservation project started in 1995, the year Durell died.

“It took some time to start the work because of bureaucratic issues. Gerald believed that every species was important, particularly the small, obscure ones,” observed Lee while delivering a lecture on her husband.

She also toured the Alipore Zoo, India’s oldest zoo, located in the city, during the day.

She said she will be writing to the director of the zoo to suggest measures for improvement.

“Many of the enclosures were done in very old style and back in the day when people didn’t really understand the need of the animals. But there are some new enclosures there, the aviary, for example. I can certainly see the areas where there is room for improvement. I will be writing to the director of the zoo to just give my suggestions. One of them would be to have a volunteer programme,” she added.

This is published unedited from the IANS feed.