Photo of the Month: May 2018

By Megan Runquist Holmstedt

Chacoan Peccary; PHOTO CREDIT: Jamie Pham

Status: This species (Catagonus wagneri) is listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to overhunting and habitat loss caused by cattle ranching and human development. The wild population is estimated to be roughly 3,000 individuals.   

Habitat: The Chacoan peccary lives in the dense, arid Gran Chaco of Bolivia, Argentina, and Paraguay–a low plain of thorn forest and emergent trees with a dense shrub layer and ground cover of bromeliads and cacti.

Diet: Tough vegetation like cacti, bromeliad roots, and acacia pods make up the majority of the Chacoan peccary diet; the animals also visit salt licks for essential minerals and nutrients.

These social and gregarious creatures live in relatively small herds ranging from five to ten individuals. Though they look like pigs, peccaries are of a separate scientific family with different dentition and digestive systems.

Until recently, this species was thought to be extinct and was known to western science only through fossil remains. The first modern-day sightings of live Chacoan peccaries were reported in Paraguay in 1972. With significant threats stacked against them, there is concern that these recently discovered mammals could disappear within a few years.

The Los Angeles Zoo participates in a critical Species Survival Plan for the Chacoan peccary; litters of one to four young are typically born on an annual basis, and the babies are able to run within two hours of birth. In 2012 as a cooperative, global effort to help preserve the species, the L.A. Zoo sent several peccaries to Europe to establish breeding groups in Germany.