As Assam prepares for mass culling to check the spread of African swine fever (ASF) that has killed almost 15,000 domesticated pigs, adjoining Arunachal Pradesh fears that the “foreign” disease may have “gone wild”.
This is the first time that ASF has been reported in India. Assam claims the disease came from China, where almost 60% of pigs have died since 2018.
Officials in Arunachal Pradesh’s East Siang district said six carcases of wild boars, including three piglets, were found in a community forest at Lidor Soyit upstream of Sille River. The spot is about 25 km from district headquarters Pasighat.
There have been unverified reports of several wild boars dying from an unknown disease in East Siang and Upper Siang districts, but the recovery of the carcasses — some partly eaten by scavengers — on Thursday made officials wary of the possibility of ASF having spread from scores of domestic pigs that have died in the State over the last two months.
“A team of forest, veterinary officials and experts trekked about 10 km to locate the carcasses after receiving information from the villages. We suspect ASF is the cause of death, but will have to await confirmation after we send blood and tissue samples to labs outside,” Divisional Forest Officer (Territorial) Tashi Mize told The Hindu on Friday.
Some of the carcasses appeared to have been consumed by porcupines. “ASF is confined to porcine creatures, so other animals are unlikely to be affected. But the possibility of becoming carriers of the virus could affect the wild boar population,” he said.
While veterinary officials have advised culling of domesticated pigs in the affected areas, the Forest Department has identified critical areas and advised villagers not to hunt wild boars and consume their meat.
Assam seeks help
The Assam government as sought a financial package of ₹144 crore from the Centre for compensating pig farmers who have lost their only source of income.
“The situation is turning grim with AFS spreading from six to 10 of Assam’s 33 districts and killing 14,919 pigs despite having taken all possible preventive measures. We are discussing other options,” State Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Minister Atul Bora said.
These measures include culling, which the State government was initially reluctant to undertake.
The Veterinary and Forest Departments also got together to dig trenches on the periphery of wildlife reserve, specifically the Kaziranga National Park that houses an estimated 15,000 wild boars, to stop them from coming in contact with domestic pigs reared in adjoining villages.
Officials say there is no cure for ASF, which kills almost 100% of the pigs it strikes.