The Pantanal: Earthly Paradise


Alexine Keuroghlian Interview

  Interview with Alexine Keuroghlian (4:38)

A peccary is considered an ungulate, which are animals that have hooves.  They’re even toed hooves, similar to deers, and cows, and other animals that have two toes, or they have the hooves.  So, they’re pig-like, and they’re fruit eating animals that reside in the tropical region.  There is three peccary species today.  One is the Collared peccary, which goes actually all the way into the southwestern United States.  Arizona, Texas, and goes all the way down into Northern Argentina.  We have the White-Lipped Peccary, which ranges from Southern Mexico, also all throughout South America, and up to Northern Argentina as well.  And then then we have what we call the the Catagonus Peccary, which is considered the endangered species of the three peccaries.  And they are endemic to the Chaco region, um, which is located in Bolivia, Argentina, and Paraguay. Here in the Pantanal, you will see two of the Peccary species, which is the Collared peccary and the White-Lipped peccary. 

We know quite a bit about the peccaries, because in the last, 7 years there’s been a lot of studies on them in the wild. What we know today is that they move in herds, 50 individuals or so.  In some areas they can be with a hundred individuals.  They require quite a big area, up to minimum 2,500 hectares.  And, they have an interesting social structure where there is basically a 1 to 1 sex ratio.  There is no sexual dimorphism, meaning that the males are not larger than the females like in some cases with other ungulates. You can’t really tell the difference between a male and female if you’re just looking at them from a certain distance.

There’s a lot of the behavioral part that we don’t know the whole interaction of offspring and the parents, and the mating system, which would be important to find out.  Do more than, does one male mate with many females, or is it a monogamous type relationship? More about their interaction with other species is interesting.  In the Pantanal we have the issue where the feral pig has gone wild.  And, so, that’s an exotic species.  In their area, what kind of interaction is occurring there?  Is this exotic species a problem for White-Lipped peccaries or collard peccaries, for that matter, or other animals in general?  I mean, is there a problem there and if so, you know, what kind of problem.   

They’re extremely important in the maintenance of the biodiversity of whatever habitat they are in, because they are primarily fruit eating animals.  They are fruit predators, which what we mean by that is that they eat the fruit and they crunch the seed, which has an important role in the ecosystem.  And they also disperse seeds.  So they play that dual role and because they’re in such large numbers, their impact is even larger.  I mean if you took peccaries out of the ecosystem, you’re going to see a rapid change in the vegetation.  Just because of their role as seed dispersers and predators, in such magnitude.  We’re not talking about a solitary animal, we’re talking about you know, when we think of peccaries, its not one individual, it’s fifty to a hundred individuals.  So it’s just because of their quantity, they really are very important in the ecosystem. 

I think that, because peccaries are not considered you know that charming, cute and cuddly animal like koalas, or pandas. They don’t have that kind of attention, but at the same time I think people don’t realize how important it is to prevent their local extinctions in so many areas.  I mean, they are widespread, but they are facing problems in so many different areas.  And how that will affect the other species, like a chain reaction.  You lose peccaries,  you lose certain fruits, you lose other species.  And, and that should be kept in mind.