May 09, 2013

In Photos- The White Lipped Peccary


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.

peru tambopata
Image by Phil Torres
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:
Peccaries use their noses as a shovel, digging up roots, tubers, and seeds, and
tearing up the earth while they do it. Image by Phil Torres.

peru tambopata amazon
Image by Phil Torres.

Image by Phil Torres

Image by Phil Torres

1 comment:

  1. I've seen these lovely creatures and yes, they have a very characteristic smell!


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