The term 'ecosystem engineer' refers to an animal that significantly creates, modifies, and maintains the habitat it lives in.
The beaver is an obvious example of this, as its dams actually create small ponds. But for anyone who has ever come across a herd of 200+ white lipped peccary in the Amazon and seen their aftermath, it's not hard to imagine these guys can do equally significant engineering for the amazon rainforest wildlife.
If you ask one of our local guides what peccaries eat, their typical answer is "everything." Peccary are known for loudly chomping on seeds, eating young shoots of plants, and even eating small vertebrates or invertebrates they come across.
But it's not just what they eat, it's how they eat. Using their noses as shovels, they can quickly dig 6" into the ground to get at some roots. And the four hundred hooves stomping the ground leaves a mashed-up earth in their wake.
Not to mention the incredible impact- studies have shown that the removal of peccaries from a forest results in 500% or more increase in the number of seeds on the ground for some palsm.
However 'destructive' these peccaries may seem, it's very important that it is natural- this is the way rainforests have been for thousands of years. These trees, especially palms, have evolved in a habitat in which their seeds get eaten, so if you remove the peccary you will likely get some significant impacts on seed survival, dispersal, and the future tree population of that forest decades down the road.
It's not just the trees they impact with their engineering, studies have shown their muddy wallows provide homes for many frog species, and they are the top prey of jaguars, too.
I have worked in rainforests in which peccaries have all been hunted out by humans. The forest is, simply, different. There seem to be less cleared areas, less muddy wallows, and a definite lack of that peccary smell that permeates some parts of these forests.
So, to celebrate these wild, loud, smelly, and important animals, I present these photos from my lastest amazon rainforest expedition :
- Go on a hike in the rainforest with a trained guide: Peccaries are everywhere in the rainforest. You can see them around Tambopata Research Center lodge gardens. However, to see a white lipped peccary you have to go out with a guide quitetly. To practice your bird eye, download your Amazon Rainforest Animal identification guide and the beautiful illustrated plate of Amazon mammals.
- Sign up for a Free Trial of the Wired Amazon: even if Amazon Travel is not in your short-term plans you can connect with Amazon wildlife. Sign-up for your free trial of the Wired Amazon and help us identify the Amazon wildlife that is on the photos taken by our 20 square kilometer grid of 78 cameras snapping away in the middle of the Amazon jungle.
- And of course, when you travel to the Amazon you know who to chat with. We will help you get here.