Tayassuids diverged from a common ancestor with suids (pigs) in Eurasia during the early Oligocene (35 million years ago). The family Tayassuidae consists of three living genera, each consisting of a single species: the collared peccary (Pecari tajacu), the white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari), and the Chacoan peccary (Catagonus wagneri). Catagonus is believed to be the most primitive genus. It is thought to be more closely related to the white-lipped peccary than either species is to the collared peccary. These two species are believed to have diverged from the collared peccary in North America during the late Pliocene (around 4 million years ago) before they colonised South America. Some authorities place the collared peccary in the same genus as the white-lipped peccary (Tayassu tajacu and Tayassu pecari respectively). A fourth genus of peccary (Platygonus), which was considerably larger than the living genera, survived in North America until the late Pleistocene around 12,000 years ago.
In 2000, Dr Marc van Roosmalen put forward a fourth possible peccary species, the giant peccary (Pecari maximus), and it was formally described in 2007. However the scientific evidence for its Red List status is disputed due to lack of data, and is classified as data deficient (DD) by the IUCN.
The largest of the three living species of peccary, the Chacoan peccary is a pig-like mammal with a long, flexible snout and a coat of grey brown bristly fur. A long line of stiff dark hairs runs along the centre of the back, and there is a faint collar of whitish bristles across the shoulders. Peccaries are more agile than pigs, and possess longer, more slender legs and smaller hooves. Their canines are relatively small and point down, in contrast to the large, upper canines of pigs that curve upward and outward. The Chacoan peccary can be distinguished from other peccaries by its relatively larger head and longer snout, longer and paler hairs on the ears and legs, and longer ears, legs and tail. Most individuals have only two toes on their hind feet instead of three as in other peccary species.
This species is active during the day, particularly in the late morning. It spends much of its time browsing on fleshy plants such as cacti and bromeliads. Other foods eaten include roots, seeds, fruit and forbs. The species occasionally eats carrion and may also prey on small mammals. It obtains essential minerals from eating mineral-rich soil at naturally occurring salt-licks and leaf-cutter mounds. The species is well adapted to the dry, hostile environment in which it lives. It gains most of its water from the fleshy plants it eats, and can concentrate its urine to conserve additional water. The hottest part of the day is spent in dust and mud wallows, or resting in the shade of low brush or tall trees.
Chacoan peccaries are highly social, and are generally found in groups of 2-10 individuals. These groups usually consist of 4-5 adults and accompanying juveniles. The home range of this species is thought to be around 1,100 ha, and contains a core area of about 600 ha. Groups maintain their territories by marking areas with scent from glands on their backs. They also scent-mark other members of their group. Most births occur in the austral spring months of September, November and December, with fewer litters born during the dry season (June–August). Litter size varies from 1-4, with the usual number of young being 2-3. The young are born in a well-developed state and are able to run within a few hours. Females give birth to their first litter at around two years of age. Life expectancy of this species in the wild is thought to be around 9 years. The main natural predators of peccaries are pumas and jaguars.
The species is listed on Appendix I of CITES, to which all three Chaco countries are signatories. Hunting of all wildlife in Paraguay is prohibited and the species is protected from exportation, trade and commercial exploitation in Argentina. However, these laws are not enforced and widespread hunting continues to occur. Status surveys have been carried out throughout the species’ range and national conservation action plans have been written for each of the three countries in which it occurs. Chacoan peccaries are found at low densities in two national parks in Paraguay - the Defensores del Chaco (7,800 km²) and Teniente Enciso (400 km²) - and one protected area in Argentina, the El Copo National Park (1,140 km²), although it is doubtful whether any of these areas support viable populations.
There is evidence to suggest that the species can adapt to habitat that has been degraded by overgrazing or fire providing some food and shelter is available. Chacoan peccaries have proved difficult to maintain in captivity. However, a captive breeding station was established in 1986 at Estancia Toledo, near Filadelfia, in the central Paraguayan Chaco with funding from the Foundation for Endangered Animals, the Zoological Society of San Diego, and Lincoln Park Zoo. Despite initial problems there has been some limited success with breeding the species at the centre. Several zoos across the United States are currently participating in the American Zoo and Aquarium Association’s Species Survival Plan (SSP) for Chacoan peccaries. Conserving and managing these captive populations will help safeguard against the extinction of the species in the wild.
Chacoan peccaries have a restricted distribution, inhabiting a portion of the Dry Chaco. The species is seriously endangered given the accelerated habitat loss in the region, the unsustainable hunting of the species and the lack of knowledge about its ecological requirements and the methods we can use to research and monitor its status.
Looking to ensure the long-term persistence of the Chacoan peccary, the purpose of our project is to improve the knowledge of the species and stregthen local capacities for grass-roots conservation actions for its future survival.
To accomplish these objectives we will find the best monitoring method for the species, evaluating and comparing different monitoring methodologies: a locally based monitoring system, transects and camera-traps. We will also develop a local communication, education and awareness program; where scientists and local inhabitants will actively participate in diseminating information about the Chacoan peccary
The Chacoan peccary is a seriously endangered species, with a unique evolutionary history. It inhabits a restricted portion of the Dry Chaco, and has special adaptations to this harsh environment. The species has received almost no conservation or research attention although measures for its preservation are urgent
Mariana's research includes the ecology of peccaries, conservation of wildlife and subsistence hunting
Pigs, Peccaries and Hippos Specialist Group (PPHSG)
The broad aim of the PPHSG is to promote the long-term conservation of wild pigs, peccaries and hippos and, where possible, the recovery of their populations to viable levels.
Altrichter, M., Taber, A., Noss, A. & Maffei, L. 2008.Catagonus wagneri. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 14 November 2010.
Altrichter, M. 2005. The sustainability of subsistence hunting of peccaries in the Argentine Chaco. Biological Conservation 126(3): 351-362.
Altrichter, M. 2004. Distribution and relative abundance of peccaries in the Argentine Chaco: associations with human factors. Biological Conservation 116(2): 217-225.
ARKive. (Oct 2006).
Nowak, R.M. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. Sixth edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore and London.
Oliver, W. L. R. 1993. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan: Pigs, Peccaries and Hippos. IUCN: Gland, Switzerland.
Theimer, T. C. and Keim, P. 1998. Phylogenetic relationships of peccaries based on mitochondrial cytochrome b DNA sequences. In Journal of Mammalogy 79(2): 566-572.
Yahnke, C. J., Unger, J., Lohr, B., Meritt, D. A. and Heuschele, W. 1997. Age specific fecundity, litter size, and sex ratio in the Chacoan peccary (Catogonus wagneri). Zool. Biol. 16: 301-307.
Distribution map based on data provided by the IUCN Global Mammal Assessment.
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