White-Lipped Peccary Species May Be in Steep Decline

Very few people woke up this morning wondering about the plight of the White-Lipped Peccary. Well, they deserve to live as much as we do. We CAN accommodate their needs if we just back off a bit and find ways to live in harmony with all our non human friends. All of us need to focus on what we want and what we really need. If we did that maybe we can bolster populations of innocent creatures just working their collective ways through the day.
Imagine a world where all the creatures have perished. 


By Karen Weintraub – Science – 19 February 2020

“With forests depleted by development, the pig-like animals are disappearing rapidly, scientists have found in a new study.

White-lipped peccaries travel in large packs throughout the forest. The hairy, pig-like creatures emit a distinctive musky smell that is not easy to forget, and play a crucial role in their ecosystems, dispersing seeds and creating habitats for insects and amphibians.

Now, though, the species is facing a crisis. A recent study published in the journal Biological Conservation finds that the territory roamed by white-lipped peccaries in Mexico and Central America has shrunk by as much as 87 to 90 percent from their traditional range, and 63 percent from previous estimates.

“It’s shocking for me how fast this population is declining compared to the last assessment,” said Harald Beck, chair of the peccary specialist group of the nonprofit International Union for Conservation of Nature. Dr. Beck was not involved in the new study but conducted a similar one in 2012 that found a habitat loss at the time of 21 percent. “We did not know it was that bad.”

It’s not clear exactly how many animals remain, because of the difficulty of counting them, said Daniel Thornton, an assistant professor at Washington State University, who led the research. The new study relied on camera traps and local experts to identify territory where the social creatures still roam.

White-lipped peccaries are extremely vulnerable to human activity. They need a wide territorial range, they move in big groups and aggressively face threats instead of fleeing to safety, and their meat is highly prized, Dr. Thornton said. “They have the trifecta of bad characteristics for a species that wants to survive in human-dominated landscapes, unfortunately for them,” he said.

Development of land that used to be forested — for cattle ranches, and palm oil and sugar cane plantations — has substantially limited the white-lipped peccaries’ foraging grounds, according to Rony García-Anleu, a researcher based in Guatemala with the Wildlife Conservation Society who worked on the study.

Unless hunting and habitat destruction are quickly controlled, it could mean the end of a species that once roamed much of the New World tropics, and will lead to substantial degradation of the handful of large forests that remain between Mexico and Panama, where most of the region’s white-lipped peccaries now live.

“The implication is really dramatic for the whole ecosystem down there,” said Dr. Beck, also a professor at Towson University in Maryland.

Their frequent mud baths create depressions in the soil that fill with water and become important breeding habitats for insects and amphibians, Dr. Beck said. His own research has shown that without these “ecosystem engineers” and the depressions they create, certain frogs can no longer breed and die out. Peccaries are among the only creatures with strong enough jaws to eat most palm species, he added, keeping those plants from growing out of control.

The white-lipped peccaries are also important for dispersing seeds across the forest, constantly traveling in search of ripe food sources, Mr. García-Anleu said.

And they are important in the forest food chain. In addition to people, the peccaries are hunted by wild jaguars and puma, who will also die off if they lack for protein, Mr. García-Anleu said.

There are three species of peccaries in the Americas. Collared peccaries are smaller, less aggressive and less disruptive of the ecosystem than white-lipped peccaries, he said, and they travel in smaller groups. A third species lives in the deserts of Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia.

White-lipped peccaries traditionally were “bullies,” Dr. Beck said, traveling in packs of hundreds — or as many as 1,000. “I’ve been in the rainforest when they run through the understory. It’s really something,” he said. The animals click their teeth to communicate with one another and move like a tank across the forest floor. “The vegetation has to be adapted to the impact of those peccaries.”

The species remains the strongest in the five remaining great forests that dot Mesoamerica. Those are the Maya Forest in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize; the Moskitia in Nicaragua and Honduras; the Indio Maíz-Tortuguero in Nicaragua and Costa Rica; the Talamanca Region in Costa Rica and Panama; and the Darien in Panama and Colombia.

All three researchers said urgent action was needed to protect the peccaries by preserving the remaining forests and effectively restricting hunting.

“We are in the precise moment to stop this,” Mr. García-Anleu said, “because we know now that they are in trouble, and we still have these five big forests.”


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