Wednesday 12 February 2020

Scientists document collapse of the white-lipped peccary

Date: February 5, 2020
Source: Washington State University

White-lipped peccaries have declined by as much as 87% to 90% from their historical range in Central America, signaling a population collapse of a key species in the region, according to a study published recently in the journal Biological Conservation. The research was conducted by a team of 50 scientists from 30 organizations including Washington State University, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and El Colegio de Frontera Sur.

A pig-like animal that is an important food source for large animal predators and humans alike, the white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari) also plays a critical ecological role by dispersing seeds and creating water holes that benefit other animals. The study found that current IUCN estimates underestimated the population decline. The study results are a 63% drop from the current IUCN range estimates for the region.

"White-lipped peccary populations are in more of a critical condition than previously thought," said lead author Dan Thornton of Washington State University. "While these results are sobering, they also offer a roadmap on how to conserve this iconic, ecologically important species."

The researchers say that human influence and loss of forest cover are the primary causes of the decline, and that peccaries now remain in increasingly threatened pockets of forest mostly found along transboundary areas. Outside of transboundary landscapes, remaining populations were generally scattered and isolated.

Due to their social behavior and anti-predatory defense of grouping together when threatened, white-lipped peccaries are highly sensitive to hunting. Their large area needs and reliance on widely dispersed fruit and water sources also makes this species highly vulnerable to forest loss and fragmentation.


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