Chacoan peccary (Catagonus wagneri)

Also known as: Giant peccary, tagua
  
French: Pécari Du Chaco
Spanish: Chaco Argentino, Quimilero
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCetartiodactyla
FamilyTayassuidae
GenusCatagonus (1)
SizeHead-body length: 90 - 111 cm (2)
Tail length: 2.4 - 10.2 cm (2)
Weight29.5 - 40 kg cm (2)

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

The Chacoan peccary was first described from subfossil remains collected in the 1930’s, but was not recognised as a living species until 1975, making it one of the most recently discovered large mammals (4). It is the largest of the three species of peccary, and has many pig-like features. It is an ungulate with brownish grey bristle-like fur, a dark stripe running across the back, and white fur on the shoulders (5). This species differs from other peccaries by having longer ears, tail and snout, and has white hairs around the mouth. It also possesses a third hind toe, while other peccaries only have two hind toes (5). Males and females are similar in appearance (4).

Chacoan peccaries are patchily distributed over a total known range of approximately 140,000 km², in central South America, extending from western Paraguay and south-eastern Bolivia to northern Argentina (4).

Inhabits the enormous flat plain of the Gran Chaco, which is characterised by semi-arid thorn forests, savannah plains and marshes are found, and where temperatures are high and rainfall is low (4).

The Chacoan peccary is active during the day, when it feeds on cacti, fruit, roots and herbs (4). It uses its tough leathery snout to roll cacti on the ground, rubbing the spines off, and may even pull the spines off with its teeth and spit them out (5). To obtain essential minerals like calcium and magnesium this species licks and eats mineral-rich soil from naturally occurring salt licks and leaf-cutter ant mounds (4) (5).

Chacoan peccaries maintain territories, using scent glands on the back to mark home ranges which may measure up to 1,100 hectares in size, but with smaller care areas of about 600 ha (4). They live in small stable groups of 2 to 10 individuals, with most groups consisting of four to five adults and accompanying juveniles (4). These animals are social and communicate by various sounds from grunting to chatters of the teeth (5). Females produce their first litters at a minimum age of two years, and have one litter per year with a mean litter size of one to four young. The offspring are well developed and able to run a few hours after birth. Individuals are thought to live for up to nine years (4).

The recent decline in the range and numbers of this species is due to a number of factors, including hunting for meat, habitat destruction, disease and predation by larger felids like jaguars (Panthera onca) (4). All species of peccary in the Gran Chaco are hunted for their meat by local people, even in the national parks. This species is particularly susceptible as they frequently dust bathe in groups in open spaces, including on roads, and often react to danger by standing their ground rather than fleeing. This behaviour enables hunters to eliminate whole groups in one encounter (4).

Furthermore, habitat destruction is a major threat to this species. In the Paraguayan Chaco area the rate of forest clearance for agriculture and cattle pastures has been estimated as 1,500 km² per year. Without vegetation cover, this species has no shelter from predation and hunting, and no food to eat (5). In Argentina and Bolivia much of the land is overgrazed by livestock and degraded by fire. However, Chacoan peccaries seem to be able to adapt to this degraded habitat as long as some food and shelter is available (4).

In the late 1970s and 1980s there were reports of large groups of Chacoan peccaries dying from diseases. The nature of the diseases remains unknown though foot-and-mouth and bovine rabies were common in the region at this time amongst livestock (4).

Hunting of all wildlife in Paraguay is officially prohibited and its exportation in Argentina is illegal. However, such regulations seem to be ignored and un-enforced, as hunting of the Chacoan peccary exists across its range. In 1990 a conservation action plan for this species was submitted to the Paraguayan Government, and in 1991 a similar plan was given to relevant authorities in Bolivia and Argentina (4).

To learn about efforts to conserve the Chacoan peccary see:

Authenticated by William Oliver, Chair of IUCN’s Pigs, Peccaries, and Hippos Specialist Group.
http://iucn.org/themes/ssc/sgs/pphsg/

  1. IUCN Red List 2004 (January, 2005)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. Walker’s Mammal Encyclopedia online (January, 2004)
    http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/walkers_mammals_of_the_world/artiodactyla/artiodactyla.tayassuidae.catagonus.html
  3. CITES (January, 2004)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Oliver, W.L.R. (1993) Pigs, Peccaries, and Hippos Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
  5. Animal Diversity Website (January, 2004)
    http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/catagonus/c._wagneri$narrative.html#geographic_range