Scientific Name: Catagonus wagneri
The word peccari is of Brazilian Tupi Indian origin, meaning “an animal which makes many paths through the woods.”
Chacoan peccaries are social animals that live in small herds of up to ten individuals. They communicate by various sounds from grunting to teeth-chattering, as well as by scent-marking. There is little intergroup aggression and no dominance hierarchy. Voluntary physical contact is common: five to nine animals are frequently seen grooming each other and resting together.
STATUS: Endangered. Populations of the Chacoan peccary are becoming increasingly fragmented throughout its limited geographical range. Destruction of habitat for cattle ranching, oil exploration, and road construction is accelerating, and hunting for human consumption continues uncontrolled. The total population size is unknown, but probably only several thousand individuals persist in Argentina and Bolivia, and an estimated five thousand survive in Paraguay.
HABITAT: The Chacoan peccary lives in the dense, hot, and dry Gran Chaco of Bolivia, Argentina, and Paraguay. A vast, low plain of thorn forest characterized by emergent trees, a dense shrub layer, and ground cover of bromeliads and cacti, much of the Gran Chaco is impenetrable and untouched by humans.
DIET: Chacoan peccaries have adaptations that enable them to feed on tough vegetation like cacti, bromeliad roots, and acacia pods. Its kidneys are specialized to break down acids from cacti, and its two-chambered stomach is well-suited to digest its food. The peccary seeks out salt licks formed by ant mounds, thus gaining essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, and chlorine.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: The Chacoan is the largest of the peccaries, with a head-body length ranging from 36 to 44 inches, height at the shoulder from 20 to 27 inches, and weight about 65 to 88 pounds. Males and females look alike. The bristly brownish-gray coat provides excellent camouflage, and peccaries’ tiny feet help them to pick their way through their thorny habitat. The disk-like snout is tough and leathery. Peccaries’ canine teeth are relatively small and straight, and the action of the upper and lower canines working against each other results in razor-sharp edges. Peccaries also have a conspicuous scent gland, located on the back about six inches from the base of the tail, which produces a milky, odorous substance that enables the animals to mark their territory.
Once Thought to be Extinct
Until recently, this species was known to science only through fossil remains. The first modern-day sightings of live Chacoan peccaries in Paraguay were reported in 1972. With the many threats facing this species, there is great concern that this recently discovered large mammal could disappear within a few years.