- large nasal sinuses to prevent dust inhalation
- delicate, slim legs for easier access through dense and often prickly, stunted forest
Chacoan peccaries wander over large areas in search of food, but each herd is generally restricted to its home range. It uses scent markings to delimit its territory.Up to 2 young are born between September and December to coincide with the short rainy season.The Chacoan peccary was thought to be the largest living peccary, but another new and even larger species, Pecari maximus, has now been described from live individuals in Brazil.The Chacoan peccary is brown to blackish grey, with a dark stripe along its back and white markings on it shoulders.It differs from other peccaries as it has:
- longer ears, snout and tail
- a third toe on the hind foot - all other peccary species have 2
Chacoan peccaries are vocal animals and keep in contact with one another using a broad range of grunts and teeth chattering.This is important for these social animals as they inhabit dense undergrowth where visibility is reduced.As defence, they often form a protective wall of bodies facing any adversary - this makes them particularly vulnerable to human hunters.
Catagonus wagneri, more commonly known as the Chacoan peccary, is endemic to the South American countries of Paraguay, Bolivia, and Southern Brazil (McDonald Website).
Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )
The largest of the three species of peccary, Catagonus wagneri has many "pig-like" features (Nova Website). The Chacoan peccary is an ungulate possessing a well-formed rostrum with a tough, leathery snout. The bristle-like fur is generally brown to almost gray. A dark stripe runs across the back, and white fur is found on the shoulders. C. wagneri differs from the its fellow peccary species by having longer ears, snout, and tail. It has white hairs around the mouth, unlike other peccaries. Catagonus wagneri also possesses a third hind toe, while other peccaries only have two (Mayer et al. 1986). The hypsodont teeth follow this dental formula: 2/3, 1/1, 3/3, 3/3 (GeoZoo Website). The upper canines also display the distinguishing trait of peccaries, pointing downwards instead of out and up like other Suiformes (GeoZoo Website).
Range mass: 29 to 49 kg.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Habitat and Ecology
Like the collared peccary, they are territorial and their home range sizes, based on convex polygons, measure about 1,100 ha and contain a core area of about 600 ha in the Paraguayan Chaco (Taber et al. 1993). Density estimates vary from less than 1 individual/km² to as high as 9.2 individuals/km² (Mayer and Brandt, 1982). A study in the Paraguayan Chaco produced a density estimate of 0.43 individuals/ km² (1.1 individuals/sq mi) (Taber 1991). In the Argentine Chaco the density varied between 0.17 individuals/ km² in hunted sites to 0.44 individuals/ km² in non-hunted sites (Altrichter 2005).
Chacoan peccaries are diurnal and become active about sunrise, are active throughout the day and become inactive at dusk (Taber 1991). Reports of herd sizes in the Paraguayan Chaco vary between one and nine (Mayer and Brandt, 1982; Sowls, 1997), with an average of 4.5 (Taber et al. 1993). However, in hunted areas, average group sizes are smaller ranging from 1 to 4 (Taber et al. 1993, Mayer and Brandt 1982, Altrichter and Boaglio 2004).
A slightly biased sex ratio in favour of males has been reported by Mayer and Brandt (1982) and Sowls (1984). Captive females in Paraguay (Proyecto Taguá, San Diego Zoo) gave birth between 1.2 and 8.3 years of age; younger females (<3 years old) usually had smaller litters than older females. They have one litter a year. Litter sizes in Paraguay have been reported to vary between one and four with averages of 2.72 (Mayer and Brandt, 1982; Brooks, 1992; Yahnke et al., 1997). Taber et al. (1993) estimated litter size of 1.7 for a wild population and presumed that this small litter size resulted from low reproductive rate or high neonate mortality. The farrowing season extends from September through January. Maximum longevity is unknown, but Sowls (1984) estimated the age of some individuals, based on tooth cementum layers, as at least nine years. In captivity, animals have reached 10 years and 6 months. Gestation time in captivity has been found to be 151 days (Proyecto Tagua, San Diego Zoo).
Chacoan peccaries have received the nickname "pigs from green hell" because of their wild, inpenetrable habitats. The Chacoan peccary is truly confined to hot, dry areas inpenetrable and untouched by humans (Cohn 1996). Dominated by low-lying succulents and thorny bushes, the Gran Chaco is approximately 140,000 square kilometers. There are a few scattered giant trees, but the majority of the vegetation is thorny scrub vegetation (Sowls 1997). Catagonus have developed adaptations like well-developed sinuses to combat dry, dusty conditions (Mayer et al. 1986). The feet are also small, which allows maneuverability among spiny plants (Cohn 1996).
Terrestrial Biomes: scrub forest
The arid habitat of the Gran Chaco region provides very tough vegetation for C. wagneri. These peccaries feed on various species of cacti (Cohn 1996), species like Cleistocactus baumannii and Opuntia discolor. C. wagneri uses its tough snout to roll the cacti on the ground, rubbing the spines off. The Chacoan peccary may pull off the spines with its teeth and spit them out. The kidneys of Catagonus wagneri are specialized to break down acids from the cacti. The two-chambered stomachs are also well suited to digest tough foods like cacti (Cohn 1996). Occassionally grazing on bromeliad roots, C. wagneri also eats acacia pods and fallen cacti flowers. This species of peccary seeks out salt licks formed from ant mounds and construction projects like road building and land clearings. The Chacoan peccary gains essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, and chlorine from the salt licks (Sowls 1997).
Life History and Behavior
Status: captivity: 1.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Young are generally born between the months of September to December, but litters have been found almost year-round (Mayer et al. 1986). Births have been linked to periods of food abundance and rainfall (Sowls 1997). The average number of embryos has been recorded as approximately 2.72 (Mayer etal. 1986). Females may leave the herd to give birth and then return afterwards. Newborns are precocial, able to run a few hours after birth (Sowls 1997). The pelage of the young resembles that of the adults (Schmidt 1990). There is no sexual dimorphism (Mayer et al. 1986).
Average birth mass: 610 g.
Average number of offspring: 2.4.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 1096 days.
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1994Endangered(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Vulnerable(IUCN 1990)
- 1988Vulnerable(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
- 1986Vulnerable(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
- 1982Vulnerable(Thornback and Jenkins 1982)
Because the Chacoan peccary is endemic to a formerly isolated region of South America, it is most vulnerable to human activity. Just as quickly as this species is discovered in an area, it disappears (Sowls 1997). Herd numbers are decreasing as a result of habitat loss and fragmentation (IUCN 1993). The range of the Chacoan peccary is being quickly tranformed into large Texas-style ranches. Hunting also continues as well as an unidentified disease that has plagued the herds in recent years (Sowls 1997). Efforts are underway to breed Chacoan peccaries in captivity, but the species does not survive well outside of the wild. Preserves have also been established in Paraguay, but are not highly enforced (IUCN 1993).
CITES: appendix i
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: endangered
Estimated rates of decline are given below:
Argentina: 1972 to 2001, 588,900 ha (c. 20% of the forests) was deforested at a rate of 2.2% a year. Assuming this rate has continued, and will continue, this implies a 40% habitat loss over a given 18 year period (3 Catagonus generations). However, these total deforestation rates hide the impact of habitat degradation, which impacts virtually the whole area. Also, there are good reasons to believe that deforestation has greatly accelerated in the Argentine Chaco. The ongoing soy /commodity boom is having major impacts: e.g., over the last 10 years in the Chaco and Santiago del Estero provinces, soy cropland has grown from 284,000 ha to 1,513,000 ha. Some of this replaced smaller scale cotton cultivation, but most of this is new agro industrial expansions. This is putting tremendous pressure on remaining forest habitat.
Paraguay: One source reported that 45% of the dry forest was cut or selectively degraded by 1990. Since that time, approximately half of the area that had the largest Catagonus population existed in 1990 has now gone (A. Taber pers. comm.). The pressures of the habitat are not abating, and are probably increasing, particularly in the prime Catagonus habitat in Central Chaco (A. Taber pers. comm.). The species probably only hangs on in the fringes of this area, as the far west is too dry for the species, and the east too wet. Proposals for major irrigation schemes from the Paraguay River which would further expand deforestation in the Central Chaco, and allow limited expansion to areas further west, are being discussed. Also, dryland-adapted transgenic crops (especially soy bean) are allowing more land to be put under extensive agriculture, further encroaching on the species in its prime habitat.
Bolivia: This situation is less clear in this country. The Kaa-Iya National Park in the north of the range probably stabilises the situation there. It is suspected that the conditions in the dry Chaco in Chuquisaca and Tarija are likely to be similar to those in the Argentine Chaco with increasingly extensive agriculture.
Based on the above observations, it is believed that an estimated present and future 50% loss of Chacoan peccary habitat over a three-generation time period (18 years) is defensible. Also, hunting pressures have probably not abated, further increasing the likelihood of such a rate of decline.
The species has proved difficult to establish in captivity. In 1985, the Chacoan peccary was adopted for a Species Survival Plan (SSP) under the aegis of the Conservation Management Committee of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums. The following year, a captive breeding station was established 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 the Lincoln Park Zoo. Of the total of 44 wild caught adult and juvenile animals obtained for 'Proyecto Tagua' 31 died in captivity (Byrd et al. 1988; Benirschke et al. 1990; Unger 1992; Brooks pers. comm.). However, by 1992 the herd had grown to 44 animals the majority of which were born in captivity. In 1996 a mixed group of 10 animals were imported into the United States from the Paraguayan colony.
Priority conservation actions recommended for this species are: upgrade and expand the existing protected areas system within the dry Chaco of Paraguay, Argentina and Bolivia; expand the private reserve system in the Chaco; establish an effective hunting ban on the species; develop an environmental education program; strengthen wildlife services in all three Chaco countries; improve and extend captive breeding initiatives; assess the feasibility of translocating wild caught peccaries into the national parks or other reserves from areas where the natural habitat is being destroyed; and conduct further research on various aspects of the Chacoan peccary's reproductive biology, behavior, ecology, range wide status, and future management needs both in the wild and in captivity (Taber 1993).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
There have been no reports of the Chacoan peccary adversely affecting humans. This is probably due to the isolated, wild habitats of the species (Sowls 1997).
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Historically, the "spirit masters of the forest" have been hunted by local peoples, providing a plentiful and reliable source of protein. Even today, Catagonus wagneri provides meat for both local people and developers (Cohn 1996). The meat of the Chacoan peccary has been known to be "quite tasty". Catagonus wagneri possesses thinner skin than that of its relatives, and was never widely hunted for its hide (Sowls 1997).
|This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (November 2008)|
The Chacoan peccary or tagua (Catagonus wagneri) is a species of peccary found in the Gran Chaco of Paraguay, Bolivia, and Argentina. About 3000 exist in the world. It is believed to be the closest living relative to the extinct genus Platygonus.
The Chacoan peccary has the unusual distinction of having been first described in 1930 based on fossils and was originally thought to be an extinct species. In 1971, the animal was discovered to still be alive in the Chaco region, in the Argentine province of Salta. The species was well known to the native people, but it took a while for scientists to rediscover its existence. It is known locally as the tagua.
The Chacoan peccary is confined to hot, dry areas. Dominated by low-lying succulents and thorny bushes, the Gran Chaco is about 140,000 km2. A few scattered giant trees are found, but the majority of the vegetation is thorny scrub vegetation. The Chacoan peccary has developed adaptations such as well-developed sinuses to combat dry, dusty conditions. Their feet are also small, which allows maneuverability among spiny plants.
The largest of the three generally accepted species of peccaries, the Chacoan peccary has many pig-like features. It is an ungulate with a well-formed rostrum with a tough leathery snout. The bristle-like hair is generally brown to almost gray. A dark stripe runs across the back, and white fur is on the shoulders. Chacoan peccaries differ from other peccary species by having longer ears, snouts, and tails. It has white hairs around the mouth, unlike other peccaries. Catagonus wagneri also has a third hind toe, but other peccaries only have two. The hypsodont teeth follow this dental formula: 2/3, 1/1, 3/3, 3/3 . The upper canines display the distinguishing trait of peccaries, pointing downwards instead of out and up like other Suiformes. When the Chacoan peccary is nervous or frightened, it flees, and raises the hairs on its back. While escaping, it sprays secretions from its dorsal glands, which may be a signal for other peccaries to keep the group together through the dense bush.
Young are generally born between September and December, but litters have been found almost year-round. Births have been linked to periods of food abundance and rainfall. The average number of embryos has been recorded as approximately 2.72. Females may leave the herd to give birth and then return afterwards. Newborns are precocial, able to run a few hours after birth. The pelage of the young resembles that of the adults. There is no sexual dimorphism.
Chacoan peccaries often travel in herds of up to 20 individuals. They are active during the day, especially in the morning when they are most apt to travel. Herds display a general travel cycle within their home range of 42 days. This allows the individuals to monitor and show ownership over their areas.
These social mammals communicate by various sounds, ranging from grunts to chatters of the teeth. Though individuals may occasionally exhibit aggressive behavior such as charging and biting, this species is not as aggressive as others.
As a defensive strategy, members of a herd may line up in a defensive wall; this makes the herds easy targets for hunters. The Chacoan peccary produces a milky, odorous substance used for marking trees, shrubs, and similar. The substance is secreted from glands located on their backs, and is dispersed by rubbing. Frequently bathing in mud or dust, Chacoan peccaries also defecate at particular "stations".
The arid habitat of the Gran Chaco region provides very tough vegetation for the Chacoan peccary. These peccaries feed on various species of cacti, such as Cleistocactus baumannii and Opuntia discolor. It uses its tough snout to roll the cacti on the ground, rubbing the spines off. It may pull off the spines with its teeth and spit them out. The kidneys are specialized to break down acids from the cacti. The two-chambered stomachs are also well suited to digest tough foods. Occasionally grazing on bromeliad roots, it also eats acacia pods and fallen cactus flowers. This species of peccary seeks out salt licks formed from ant mounds and construction projects (road building and land clearings). The Chacoan peccary gains essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, and chlorine from the salt licks.
Because the Chacoan peccary is endemic to a formerly isolated region of South America, it is most vulnerable to human activity. Just as quickly as this species is discovered in an area, it disappears. Herd numbers are decreasing as a result of habitat loss and fragmentation. Their range is being quickly transformed into large Texas-style ranches. Hunting also continues, as well as an unidentified disease that has plagued the herds in recent years. Efforts are underway to breed Chacoan peccaries in captivity, but the species does not survive well outside of the wild. Preserves have also been established in Paraguay, but are not highly enforced.
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- Wetzel, R. M. (1977a). "The extinction of peccaries and a new case of survival". Annals of the New York Academy of Science 288: 538–544. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1977.tb33641.x.
- Wetzel, R. M. (1977b). "The Chacoan peccary, Catagonus wagneri (Rusconi)". Bulletin of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History 3: 1–36.
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