Credit: Ana Cotta / cc license
This week we are excited to feature a series of articles about some of the most important landscapes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helps to protect in Central America, that are home to an incredibly biodiverse array of wildlife. As part of “Central America Week,” we invite you to learn more about our cornerstone strategy with Wildlife Conservation Society to protect Central America’s five largest remaining wild places. We will also be spotlighting some of the charismatic species that live in these critical habitats. All of our Central America Week stories can be found here.
1. You’re probably already wondering… do white-lipped peccaries have white lips? Well, kind of. Their pig-like bodies and coats are mostly brown and black, but the distinctive white fur underneath their snouts and mouths is the reason for their name.
Credit: Melvin Merida / WCS Guatemala
2. Talk about being pros in group dynamics: White-lipped pecarries live in herds of 20-300 individuals. Some herds of even 2,000 individuals have been estimated!
Credit: Tuftedear / cc license
3. As omnivores, white-lipped peccaries will eat almost everything, but mostly eat fruit.
A camera trap view of a peccary herd. Photo Credit: Smithsonian National Zoo / cc license
4. They are the “canary in the gold mine” for tropical forests. White-lipped peccaries travel over a large range of land to find food and fresh fruits because they have so many herd members. When there are breaks in their habitat this can make them easy targets for both human hunters and wild hunters, like jaguars. In some countries the continued loss of habitat has made them a highly threatened species and their need for a large amount of space to forage make them a good indicator species for forest health. In Central American countries including El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Guatemala, populations have already become locally extinct, or are now critically endangered. This is a good example why our efforts to protect the largest wild areas remaining in Central America are so important.
Photo Credit: Chrumps / cc license
5. So on the more positive side, white-lipped peccaries have a lot of methods that they use to stay in groups and receive the safety benefits that being in a herd provides. They clatter their teeth and grunt when moving to stay aware of where other members of their herd are located. They also have powerful scents that can help the group stay together. Their noises and smells often provide a forecast that a herd is nearby, and the combined sensory experience can sometimes stretch the length of nearly two football fields. There are a good number of videos like this one and this one that demonstrate what white-lipped peccary encounters can be like.
Story by Levi Novey, International Affairs. For more stories from Central America Week, please click here.