The white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari), is a hog-like animal found in Central and South America. It roams in dense, humid, tropical rainforests and can also be found in drier savannas. It lives in herds of 20–300 individuals that on average take up about 120 km2 to fully function. This species is omnivorous, feeding mostly on fruit, and are usually found traveling great distances to obtain it. If this resource is in demand and difficult to find, peccaries are not partial to eating leaves, stems, or animal parts. White-lipped peccaries have several unique attributes that allow them to stay with and identify their herd, which is essential for their survival in the wild.
The white-lipped peccary lives to be an average of 13 years old and can give birth to two young at a time. The head and body length ranges from 90–139 cm, the shoulder height is between 40 and 60 cm, the tail length is from 3–6 cm, and the adult weight is 25–40 kg. Their color is generally brown or black. The coat is bristly and has hairs running lengthways down the spine growing longer than the hairs running down the body, making a crest, which stands up when the peccary becomes excited. The peccary has a round body with a long snout that ends in a circular disk where the nasal cavity starts. They have white markings that start below the snout and run to the cheek area just below the eyes.
White-lipped peccaries are omnivores feeding on fruits, nuts, vegetation, and small amounts of animal matter. Their main predators are the jaguar, puma, and potentially boa constrictors. Since the white-lipped peccary relies heavily on fruit, they travel to where the fruit and other essential resources are located. The fruiting season dictates most of their behavior. Fruit is more abundant in primary forests rather than secondary or coastal forests, so their populations are more dense in these regions. Generally, a period of fruit shortage occurs during the end of the wet season, so the consumption of secondary foods, such as leaves, stems, and animal parts, is increased.
Distribution, habitat, and movement
The white-lipped peccary is native to Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. An example ecoregion of occurrence is the Belizean pine forests. The peccary is regionally extinct in El Salvador and Uruguay. They thrive in dense, humid, tropical forests, and can also be found foraging in dry forests and savannas. When these species roam in their range land, they can be very loud, clattering their teeth and grunting to one another to communicate and stay within the herd. They communicate with olfactory, acoustic, and physical contact to keep together in the herd. This is essential when warding off predators such as the jaguar, because it may not attack when 200 peccaries are in a herd.
The white-lipped peccary is a diurnal feeder, and performs all of its activities during the day, more specifically in the mornings and afternoons. They are the only large neotropical mammal found in large herds. These herds can number 20-300, including both males and females, cases have been reported of herds reaching 2000 peccaries. The sex ratio within herds is about 1.4–1.8 females to males. The home range for the peccary is from 60–200 km2 in the Peruvian Amazon. The peccary can spend up to two-thirds of its day traveling and feeding. The range lands of peccaries are massive due to the large number of individuals within the herd. Often, peccaries can be smelled before seen because they give off a skunk-like odor. They are known to be aggressive when cornered or feel threatened. They give off a loud “bark” and show off their teeth in an attempt to avoid conflict.
The white-lipped peccary can breed throughout the year depending on location. The breeding season is extremely variable and consists of two distinct peaks in areas such as Costa Rica, one occurring in February and one in July. Mexico has distinct breeding seasons in April and November. The breeding season follows the fruiting season, so the variability can be consistently different in each different region where they are found. The young stay with the mother, but are weaned by six months old. Sexual maturity is reached between one and two years old.
The two main threats to their survival are deforestation and hunting. Destruction and subdivision of their natural range can have devastating effects on their population. Loss of habitat can lead to exposure for poachers, who can easily kill many peccaries at one time.
The white-lipped peccary is listed as near threatened by the IUCN and listed on Appendix II on CITES.
White-lipped peccaries have a scent gland on their backs, which emits a scent, allowing a strong bond between members of the herd. They are a good indicator of how healthy the forest is because they live in such large herds and in large areas.
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- Keuroghlian, A., Desbiez, A., Reyna-Hurtado, R., Altrichter, M., Beck, H., Taber, A. & Fragoso, J.M.V. (2013). "Tayassu pecari". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 3 July 2013. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of near threatened.
- C. Michael Hogan & World Wildlife Fund. 2012
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- C. Michael Hogan & World Wildlife Fund. (2012). Belizean pine forests. ed. M. McGinley. Encyclopedia of Earth. Washington DC
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