Chacoan Peccary
(Catagonus wagneri)
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. Although it was known from fossil material dating back to the Pleistocene, scientists believed it to have long been extinct until a living population was reported in the early 1970s. The species is well adapted to the dry, hostile climate in which it lives, and obtains most of its water from fleshy plants, such as cacti and bromeliads. The main threats to the species are thought to be from habitat loss and fragmentation and overhunting, although disease may also be contributing to population declines.
Urgent Conservation Actions
The establishment of additional protected areas where the species occurs, enforcing regulations against hunting, regular monitoring, the establishment of education and awareness programmes.
Gran Chaco region of western Paraguay, south-eastern Bolivia and northern Argentina.
Associated Blog Posts
22nd Jul 15
Welcome to Life on the EDGE, our monthly blog featuring news about our projects, fellows, species, and all other things EDGE.  This is our first update ...  Read

1st Apr 15
My name is Micaela Camino, I am an Argentine biologist working in one of the most amazing places I have ever seen: Chaco, where I work with one of the mo...  Read

8th Oct 10
EDGE mammal number 67 the Chacoan peccary (Catagonus wagneri) is today’s IUCN Species of the day!   The Chacoan peccary is a large pig-like mammal wit...  Read

Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Tayassuidae

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.

Head and body length: 900-1,112 mm
Shoulder height: 520-690 mm
Tail length: 24-102 mm
Weight: 29.5-40.0 kg

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.

Inhabits hot, semi-arid thorn forests and steppe, dominated by low-lying succulent plants and thorny bushes.
Endemic to the Gran Chaco region of western Paraguay, south-eastern Bolivia and northern Argentina. It occurs in fragmented populations across a geographical range of approximately 140,000 km².
Population Estimate
The total population size is unknown. The most recent survey (conducted more than 10 years ago) resulted in a population estimate of around 5,000 individuals in Paraguay, with perhaps another few thousand persisting in the dry Chaco regions of Argentina and Bolivia.
Population Trend
Classified as Endangered (EN A3cd+4cd) on the 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The decline in the range and numbers of Chacoan peccaries is probably due to a combination of factors. These factors include hunting by humans, habitat destruction, and disease with predation by large felids also a contributor. Of these, hunting pressure undoubtedly has the most negative impact on these animals. All peccary species in the Chaco in all three countries are vigorously hunted wherever they occur, even in national parks and reserve areas. Habitat destruction is a major threat to this species. Native vegetation is being replaced by grass to provide pasture for cattle within the Gran Chaco. This reduces the amount of food available and leaves the animals with no shelter from predators. Disease may also be a threat; during the late 1970s and early 1980s large groups of Chacoan peccaries died possibly as a result of contracting diseases such as foot-and-mouth and bovine rabies, which were sweeping through livestock populations in the area.
Conservation Underway

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

Conservation Proposed
The IUCN/SSC Pig, Peccaries and Hippos Specialist Group produced a Conservation Action Plan for the species in 1993. It recommends a number of priority actions, including the establishment of additional national parks or private reserves where substantial peccary populations still exist, and enforcing regulations against hunting both inside and outside reserves. It also recommends regular monitoring of the species and the establishment of education and public awareness programmes so that local people will become involved in conservation of the species. Efforts to breed Chacoan peccaries in captivity should continue and wild caught individuals from areas being deforested should be translocated to protected areas where possible. Research on the species’ status and behavioural ecology, and human hunting patterns in the Chaco should continue so that effective management recommendations can be made. These recommendations should include research into, and implementation of, ecologically sustainable development practices in the Chaco.
Associated EDGE Community members

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.

if you can provide new information to update this species account or to correct any errors, please email us at info@edgeofexistence.org

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