Case Study: William Oliver

PYGMY HOG CONSERVATION PROGRAMME

“If we could all make as tangible a contribution to conservation as William did, the world would indeed be in much better shape.”, were the quotes of a colleague from the IUCN Wild Pig Specialist Group, after William passed away in Philippines in 2014. William Oliver was one of the world’s most profound Wild Pig Conservationists. His contribution towards the recovery of the critically endangered Pygmy Hogs in the wild is notable. He is also responsible for the reclassication of pygmy hogs from the genus ‘Sus’ to a separate new genus ‘Porcula’. Oliver undertook the Pygmy Hog eld survey in Assam in 1977, and from then onwards became sensitized and passionate towards the conservation of Wild Pigs and other lesser fauna from India, Philippines and other parts of the globe. He played a major role in the establishment of the original Pigs and Peccaries Specialist Group (Now renamed the IUCN Wild Pig Specialist Group) in 1980 at the invitation of Sir Peter Scott, then Chair of the Species Survival Commission (SSC).

Oliver played a key role in the establishment of the International Conservation Management and Research Agreement between the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, Assam Forest Department, The Pigs, Peccaries and Hippos Specialist Group, and The Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust. The result of the agreement was the formation of the Pygmy Hog Conserva tion Programme (PHCP). The PHCP is majorly a captive breeding programme for preparing the critically endangered pygmy hogs to be released in the wild. They are also involved in restoration of grassland habitats. At present there are two active pygmy hog captive breeding centers in Assam.

Before Pygmy Hogs, Oliver initially got involved in the eld of wildlife and conservation by working as an animal keeper and Education Ocer at Marwell Zoo. After which he joined the Durrell Zoo in 1974. This was also the place where he understood the importance of zoos and captive programs for the survival of threatened species in the wild. William initially formed the action plan for conserving pygmy hogs in 1977, and it took him almost two decades to convince the state of Assam and Government of India to take steps towards conserving them, after which, the PHCP breeding center was up and was running with an initial captive population of 6 hogs. Later, in the end of May 2016, the 100th captive pygmy hog was released into the wild, into the forests. With a declining population between 200-500 pygmy hogs in the wild, and its major populationbeing conned to the north-western part of Assam in Manas National Park, the ex-site conservation model that was initiated by Oliver brings hope for the survival of pygmy hogs in the future. The PHCP reintroduction program has released pygmy hogs in Sonai Rupai Wildlife Sanctuary and Orang National Park and the current census indicated that there are 35 and 118 pygmy hogs inhabiting Sonai Rupai and Orang respectively. Oliver was also a renowned and respected wildlife artist for which he would be invited by Jersey Post to design stamps. And he was also known for his wildlife paintings and book illustrations. A species of Wild Pig is named after him in his remembrance, Sus oliveri.

Ecological Impact:

Besides setting up of the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme, Oliver also took eorts towards the conservation of other wild animals like the Visayan Spotted Deer, Philippine Hornbills and the Negros Bleeding-heart Pigeon in the Philippines. He was also instrumental in declaring of the Danjugan Island in Philippines as a nature reserve by involving the World Land Trust Organization. He assisted in the setting up of the Biodiversity Conservation Foundation in Philippines. Oliver also undertook eorts towards conservation of the critically endangered Visayan Warty Pig (Sus cebifrons) in the Philippines.

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