Case of the Mysterious Endangered White-lipped Peccaries in Latin America


A collaborative study published in PLOS ONE documents the periodic disappearance (and reappearance) of white-lipped peccaries in nine South and Central American countries. The authors say the population fluctuations may represent the first documented case of natural population cyclicity in a neotropical mammal.

The study is led by the Departamento de Zoologia, Universidade de Brasilia, and co-authored by more than 20 other organizations, including the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

White-lipped peccaries (Tayassu pecari) are pig-like hoofed mammals native to the rainforests of Central and South America. They are extremely social, forming large herds of up to hundreds of animals. Peccary researchers from Mexico to the Amazon have been intrigued by the sudden disappearance of white-lipped peccary populations over large areas, as well as reports of earlier disappearances and subsequent reappearances.

The study shows that over population cycles of 20 to 30 years, extinctions represent troughs of seven to twelve years when peccaries disappear. These can occur simultaneously on regional and possibly continental spatial scales as large as 10,000 to 5 million square kilometers (3,861 to 1.9 million square miles).

The study suggests that mysterious disappearances can be triggered by growing populations and that accidents are likely facilitated by different causes, including epidemics, and highlights the need for longer-term studies to better understand the causes. causes.

The groundbreaking study, which relies on collaboration and detective work to document 43 different disappearances at 38 sites in nine countries, also incorporates 88 years of data on commercial and subsistence harvests in the Amazon. It confirms that this little-known species, so ecologically important to neotropical forests, as well as culturally and socio-economically crucial to the indigenous peoples and local communities who live in these forests, has large-scale and long-term population cycles. long term.

From an ecological point of view, the white-lipped peccary is considered a keystone species because it influences forest regeneration and plant populations, especially palms, through seed predation, foraging and plant renewal. leaf litter. They are also considered ecological engineers through their maintenance and expansion of forest mineral licks and swamps, which benefit many other wildlife species. In addition, they are the favorite prey of the great predator of Latin America, the jaguar (Panthera onca). When peccaries disappear, jaguar populations decline.

White-lipped peccaries are extremely important from a socio-cultural perspective, as a preferred subsistence hunting target of indigenous peoples and riverine and rural communities within their range. This importance is reflected in the stories, oral history and art of many indigenous peoples of Latin America. Indeed, some indigenous peoples have stories that refer to the disappearance and reappearance of peccaries.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Jose Fragoso of the Departamento de Zoologia, Universidade de Brasilia, Brasilia, DF, Brazil, the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia (INPA/MCTIC), Manaus, Brazil and the Academy of California Sciences, San Francisco, CA, said, “This analysis highlights the importance of very large, continuous natural areas that enable source-sink population dynamics and ensure recolonization and persistence of the local population over time. and in space for perhaps the fundamental neotropical forest species. It also highlights how working with indigenous peoples can help solve the mysteries of biology. Our work also resolves a key question in tropical ecology, what happens to white-lipped peccaries when they disappear.

Lead author Dr. Mariana Altricher, from the Department of Environmental Studies at Prescott College, Arizona, believes that “this work clarifies a lingering mystery in tropical forests. It will help guide future research and conservation efforts in the tropics. More importantly, we must continue to monitor peccary populations, especially in fragmented protected areas.”

Dr Harald Beck, co-chair of the IUCN Peccary Specialist Group and one of the study’s authors, said: “This unique publication has a large scale reach (Central and South America), used historical and current data, and new state-of-the-art modeling methods to answer critical ecological questions about spatio-temporal population fluctuations of the dominant neotropical mammal, the white-lipped peccary. The article will guide future research in the Neotropics and influence conservation efforts and policies.

Dr Rob Wallace, Senior Conservation Scientist at WCS and one of the study’s co-authors, remarked: “WCS remains committed to landscape-scale conservation in a series of strongholds of nature in Latin America, which is fundamental for large-scale species like the white-lipped peccary, especially given these population cycles. Understanding these natural population cycles will be crucial in interpreting our population monitoring efforts, which represents the gold standard for assessing our conservation impact, not only for white-lipped peccaries themselves as keystone species and socio-cultural touchstone, but also for other wildlife species coexist with – lowland tapir, collared peccary, leaf litter biodiversity, a number of palm species, plant diversity and, of course, the jaguar.

The authors of the study were: Jose ́ MV Fragoso1,2,3*, André ́ P. Antunes2.4Kirsten M. Silvius5Pedro AL Constantino4Galo Zapata-Rios6Hani R. El Bizri7.8Richard E. Bodmer9.10Micaela Camino11.12Benoit de Thoisy13Robert B. Wallace14Thais Q. Morcatty8.15Peter Mayor16.17Cecile Richard-Hansen18Mathew T. Hallett19,20,21Rafael A. Reyna- Hurtado22H. Harald Beck23Soledad de Bustos24.25Alexine Keuroghlian26Alessandra Nava27Olga L. Montenegro28Ennio Painkow Neto29Mariana Altrichter30.

1 Departamento de Zoologia, Universidade de Brasilia, Brasilia, DF, Brazil

2 Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia (INPA/MCTIC), Manaus, Brazil

3 California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, California, USA

4 RedeFauna–Rede de Pesquisa em Diversidade, Conservacão e Uso da Fauna da Amazonia, Tefe ́, Amazonas, Brazil

5 Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA

6 Wildlife Conservation Society – Ecuador Program, Quito, Ecuador

7 Department of Natural Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK

8 Instituto de Desenvolvimento Sustentavel Mamiraua ́, Tefe ́, Amazonas, Brazil

9 Museum of Amazonian Cultures-Fundamazonia, Iquitos, Loreto, Peru ́

10 DICE, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK

11 Proyecto Quimilero, Roosevelt 4344, CABA, Resistencia, Argentina

12 EDGE of Existence—Zoological Society of London, Regent’s Park, London, England, UK

13 Kwata NGOs, Cayenne, French Guiana

14 Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx, New York, USA

15 Department of Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK

16 Departament de Sanitat i d’Anatomia Animals, Facultat de Veterinària, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, ​​​​Bellaterra, Spain

17 Museo de Culturas Indigenas Amazonicas, Loreto, Iquitos, Peru

18 French Office for Biodiversity ́-DRAS/SCGEEUMREcoFoG, Kourou, France

19 Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA

20 Institute for Environment and Sustainability, University of Miami, Oxford, Ohio, USA

21 Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bogor, Indonesia

22 El Colegio de la Frontera Sur -Unidad Campeche, Campeche, Campeche, Mexico

23 Department of Biological Sciences, Towson University, Towson, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

24 Secretariıa de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sustentable de Salta, Santiago del Estero, Salta, Argentina

25 Fundacio ́n Biodiversidad Argentina, Suipacha, Argentina

26 Pecary Project/IUCN/SSC Pecary Specialist Group, Campo Grande, Brazil

27 Fiocruz ILMD Amazon, Adriano ́polis, Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil

28 Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogota ́, Colombia

29 Tropical Sustainability Institute–TSI, Carapicu ́ıba, São Paulo, Brazil

30 Faculty of Environmental Studies, Prescott College, Prescott, Arizona, USA

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