Tayassu pecari


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Tayassu pecari
Species Authority: (Link, 1795)
Common Name/s:
English White-lipped Peccary
Spanish Cariblanco, Chancho de Monte, Pecari de Labios Blanco
French Pécari à lèvres blanches
Sus pecari Link, 1795

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2bcde+3bcde ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2012-05-25
Assessor/s: Keuroghlian, A., Desbiez, A., Reyna-Hurtado, R., Altrichter, M., Beck, H., Taber, A. & Fragoso, J.M.V.
Reviewer/s: Beisiegel, B. de Mello, Holland, J. & Jorge, M.L.S.P.
This species is considered Vulnerable under criteria A2bcde+3bcde due to an ongoing population reduction estimated to be close to 30% in the past three generations (18 years) due to habitat loss, illegal hunting, competition with livestock, and epidemics. Based on current rates of decline it is suspected that this rate of reduction will continue for the next three generations (18 years). This species occurs in the Amazon, where such a high rate of decline may seem improbable, but new evidence gathered by the Peccary Specialist Group has been documenting several cases of mysterious disappearance of the species in what appears to be pristine habitat (Keuroghlian et al 2012, Richard-Hansen et al. in prep.), which are similar to the well documented recent disappearance of White-lipped Peccary in large continuous protected areas such as Iguaçu National Park (Azevedo and Conforti 2008). In addition, the local extinctions of populations in Ecuador and Bolivia (Roldan Simonetti 2001, Tirira 2011) and throughout their geographical range is an ongoing process (Althrichter et al. 2012, Keuroghlian et al. 2012). Due to the alarming increase of local extinctions, numerous countries have been updating their Red List Category for the species to Endangered or Vulnerable, e.g., most recently: Mexico, Brazil, and Ecuador.

This species has a wide distributional range and occurs in many protected areas; however, it is rapidly disappearing from fragmented areas and overall it has suffered a major range reduction in its historical distribution. The relative vulnerability of White-lipped Peccaries to local extinction in established conservation units needs to be considered. Extant conservation units in the different ecosystems are not necessarily adequate to ensure the survival of White-lipped Peccaries, and even large protected areas are not enough to guarantee the protection of viable populations. Unfortunately, the future for many of the currently continuous tracts of tropical forest will be similar to what has happened in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil. This reduction has been more dramatic for Mesoamerican countries, where it has been extirpated from El Salvador and has been greatly reduced in Costa Rica (89%). Mexico and Guatemala (84%) (Altrichter et al. 2012). In other areas within its range, it is undergoing localized declines due to widespread and increasing deforestation, and intense hunting pressure. According to Altrichter et al. (2012), within 48% of its current range, White-lipped Peccaries have a reduced abundance and a low probability of long-term survival.
2008 Near Threatened

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: White-lipped Peccaries are confined to the Neotropical Region, from southeastern Mexico in the north, through Central America and northern and central South America, as far south as Entre Rios in northern Argentina and Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil (Sowls 1997). To date, it has been proposed that there are five subspecies of White-lipped Peccary, but this has not been validated through genetic and/or morphological research (Groves and Grubb 1993, Taber et al. 2011). Limited chromosome (Giannonil et al. 1981, Benirschke and Kumamoto 1984) and DNA (Gongora and Moran 2005) studies have revealed polymorphisms and some variation in sequence divergence among a few individuals from different geographical regions.

Tayassu pecari was introduced to Cuba in 1930 (Mayer and Wetzel 1987), but is no longer found in the wild there. It is presumed to be extirpated from El Salvador, and its range has been significantly reduced in Mexico, Central America, and South America in the last 20 years (Leopold 1959; Reyna-Hurtado et al. 2009, 2010; Altrichter et al. 2012).
Argentina; Belize; Bolivia, Plurinational States of; Brazil; Colombia; Costa Rica; Ecuador; French Guiana; Guatemala; Guyana; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama; Paraguay; Peru; Suriname; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of
Regionally extinct:
El Salvador
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: White-lipped Peccary densities vary across their distribution in different habitats. Keuroghlian et al. (2004) and Cullen (1997), both working in southern Brazil, found density estimates between 3.9 and 10.2 individuals/km² in tropical forest fragments. Fragoso (1998a, 1998b, 1999), studying a White-lipped Peccary population in the northern Brazilian Amazon, in Roraima State, reported densities declining within five years, and attributed the population crash to a potential  epizootic disease (Fragoso 2004). In the Brazilian Pantanal, Desbiez et al. (2004) found 7.5 ind./km²  and  9.6 ind./km² in two different locations in southern the southern Pantanal. Desbiez et al. (2010) documented the importance of habitat in peccary density estimates: peccary density estimates in forested areas was 13.7 ind/km², and in the open Cerrado  habitat it was 3.0 ind/km². Lower densities have been found in dry forests. Altrichter (2005) found White-lipped Peccary densities in the Argentine Gran Chaco dry forest to be 0.33 ind/km² in hunted sites and 1.04 ind/km² in non-hunted sites; while Reyna-Hurtado and Tanner (2007) found similar densities of 0.43 ind/km² in the semi-dry forest of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in Mexico.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Some 60% of this species' distribution is in humid tropical forests. However, they are found in a wide diversity of habitats including wet and dry grasslands and woodlands, xerophitic areas like the Gran Chaco, tropical dry forests, and coastal mangroves (Wetzel and Lovett 1974, Mayer and Brandt 1982, Vaughan 1983, Sowls 1984, Altrichter and Boaglio 2004, Taber et al. 2008, Desbiez et al. 2009b). They range altitudinally from sea level to over 1,900 m on the eastern slopes of the Andes. White-lipped Peccaries tend to frequent areas close to water and may even visit coastal beaches to forage. Peccaries are primarily frugivorous (Husson 1978, Kiltie 1981, Beck 2005, Desbiez et al. 2009a, Keuroghlian and Eaton 2008a), but will eat other plant resources, invertebrates, fungi and even occasional fish (Fragoso  1994, D. Fernandes pers. comm.). Beck (2006) determined that White-lipped Peccaries fed on 144 plant species belonging to 36 families across their range. The species plays an important role as prey for large felines, ecosystem engineers, and in the function and structure of Neotropical forests as a major predator and disperser of seeds (Altrichter et al. 1999, Beck 2005, Keuroghlian and Eaton 2008a, Desbiez 2009a, Desbiez and Keuroghlian 2009, Keuroghlian et al. 2009a, Cavalcanti and Geese 2010, Beck et al. 2010).

A number of radio-telemetry based range size estimates are now available from a diversity of habitats across this species' distribution. In Costa Rica, herds in tropical moist forest were found to have a mean annual home range size of 32.00-37.80 km² (100% MCP) (Carrillo et al. 2002). Fragoso (2004) estimated home ranges from 21.80 km²  to 200.00 km² (100% MCP) for groups monitored over three years in moist forest in Maraca Island in Roraima state Brazil. Keuroghlian et al. (2004) estimated an annual herd home range of 29.51 km² (100% MCP) in a fragmented semideciduous Atlantic Forest in southern Brazil. Reyna-Hurtado and Tanner (2009b) found annual herd home ranges from 43.60 km² to 121.00 km² (100%) in tropical semi-dry forest in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in Southern Mexico. All home range estimates presented are based on 100% or 95% minimum convex polygons for comparative purposes. Reyna-Hurtado (2007), Carrillo et al. (2002) and Keuroghlian et al. (2004) observed a high level of spatial overlap between subherds and the amount of overlap could vary depending on the season and resources available.  The consensus is that white-lipped peccaries are clearly wide-ranging and require large areas for survival (Altrichter and Almeida 2002, Keuroghlian et al. 2004, Reyna-Hurtado 2007). Their movements respond in part to changes in the availability of fruit patches and water sources (Kiltie and Terborgh 1983; Mendez 1970; Sowls 1984; Bodmer 1990; Altrichter et al. 2001; Keuroghlian et al. 2004; Beck 2005; Reyna-Hurtado and Tanner 2009b; Keuroghlian and Eaton 2008a, 2008b, 2009b).

White-lipped Peccary herds often exceed 100 individuals, though groups of as few as five to more than 200 individuals have also been observed (Kiltie and Terborgh 1983, Desbiez  2007, Donkin 1985, Mayer and Brandt 1987, Fragoso 2004, Reyna-Hurtado 2007). In certain seasons in some areas, large herds divide into smaller groups according to the distribution and abundance of food, although the more frequent reporting of smaller groups in some areas is probably correlated with increased hunting pressure (Ditt 2002). Group sizes in hunted areas adjacent to the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in Mexico were smaller (Median=16, SE=1.84, n=15) than these living inside the reserve where no hunting is allowed (Median=25, SE=1.84 n=9, Reyna-Hurtado 2009a). Keuroghlian et al. 2004 observed that a population of 150 White-lipped Peccaries in a fragmented area of Atlantic Forest periodically divided into 3-4 sub-herds with an average of 42 individuals each. They also observed a high frequency of switching of individuals among sub-herds and documented periodic sub-herd fusion and fission. Switching of individuals has also been observed in a current long term (10 years) radio telemetry study in the Pantanal of Brazil   Keuroghlian et al. in prep.) and in Costa Rica (Sáenz and Carrillo 1999). Biondo et al. 2011 analyzed two different populations 80 km apart in the Pantanal. They found a low degree of genetic differentiation between the locations analyzed, and dispersal by both sexes (contrary to the predicted male-biased dispersal of most mammalian species). In addition, 30% of males and females were predicted to be dispersers, which can indicate high levels of gene flow between the two different herds (Biondo et al. 2011). For this reason, Biondo et al. (2011) stress the need of very large areas to maintain gene flow and genetic diversity between these distant but connected populations, and suggest  managing them as a unique population; this requires  maintaining ecological corridors, and natural links between herd populations (Biondo et al. 2011).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Widespread and continued deforestation and intense hunting pressure are the main causes for the decline and extinction of many White-lipped Peccary populations throughout its vast biogeographical range. White-lipped Peccaries form large herds and consequently require extensive and contiguous areas of habitat to obtain sufficient resources throughout the year. Hunting pressure by landless squatters and poachers has also contributed to local extinctions of the conspicuous White-lipped Peccary herds in many Neotropical forest fragments (Cullen, Bodmer and Valladares-Padua 2001). The loss and fragmentation of their habitat also exposes them to increased hunting pressure by providing more access to human hunters. Hunting may have a devastating impact on a herd of white-lipped peccaries, because large numbers are killed at one time. Peres (1996) documented local extinctions at all of his Amazonian sites which had heavy to moderate hunting pressure. Even light hunting may be a problem in certain regions of terra-firme forest, where resources are limited and peccary population densities are naturally low (Peres 1996). In most of its biogeograhical range, the progressive destruction of habitat for agriculture and cattle ranching, as well as timber extraction, has already accounted for much of the species' habitat loss (Altrichter and Boaglio 2004, Altrichter et al. 2012). As of 2005, large populations of White-lipped Peccaries persisted only in 21% of its historic range (Altrichter et al. 2012). The species exposure to over hunting and local extinctions of apparently healthy populations in large conservation units is now well documented in several areas of Brazil (e.g. Roraima, Fragoso 2004; Iguaçu National Park, Azevedo and Conforti, 2008; Plateau region of the Mata Atlantica, Morro do Diabo, Mangini pers. comm.; and the Mata Atlantica of Bahia, Flesher, pers. comm. Whether this is due to epidemics, over hunting or other factors is still unclear (Keuroghlian et al. 2012). In the Atlantic forest there are very few populations within suitable habitat large enough to be exempt from extinction in the region (Jorge et al. in prep.). Researchers working in the fragmented Atlantic forest biome had evidence of sharp, sometimes unexplained, population declines (Keuroghlian et al. 2012). Southeastern Brazil is densely populated, and native habitats have been extensively fragmented. In most cases with a similar scenario, recolonization of small, isolated fragments would be impossible without human intervention, because source populations are not available in the vicinity to replace populations that become locally extinct (Keuroghlian 2003).

Similarly, Fragoso's (2004) documented a concern for the species in Roraima due to strong evidence of periodic and sometimes permanent White-lipped Peccary population crashes which seem density-dependent and are most likely due to epizootic events. Reported diseases has been documented in free ranging White-lipped Peccary populations (Karesh et al. 1998, Herrera et al. 2008, Freitas et al . 2010). This is a particular cause of concern due to the increasingly fragmented distribution of White-lipped Peccary populations. One risk is that isolated populations that crash may have difficulties recovering since they are cut off from dispersal of potential source population areas.

In November 2010, the IUCN and the Instituto Chico Mendes (ICMBio), the Federal Institute for Biodiversity Conservation, and official assessor of species red listing for the Brazilian Ministry of Environment, signed an agreement to build the Brazilian Red List of Threatened Species. The White-lipped Peccary (which was not included in the previous official Brazilian list of threatened fauna - MMA, 2003), was then classified as Vulnerable in Brazil (A2abcde+A3abcde). In the endangered Cerrado biome, it was classified as Endangered, and the only ungulate that received a Critically Endangered classification for the Atlantic forest Biome (Keuroghlian et al. 2012). This change of status is due to the intensification of threats and most importantly, to the increase of knowledge about the species. According to the workshop participants in Brazil, a population decline of at least 30% in the last 18 years (three generations) is suspected, and an equal population decline is projected for the next 18 years.

Another important result from this regional assessment in Brazil was learning that local extinctions of White-lipped Peccary in pristine areas not only occurred in Brazil, but also in other areas. For example, in French Guiana, Richard-Hansen, Khazraie, Surugue, and Grenand (in prep.) show data that clearly supports the evidence of a population crash during the last 4 years. In Bolivia, White-lipped Peccaries have become locally extinct in areas surrounding a Tsimane village in the Estación Biológica Beni (Roldan and Simonetti 2001). In Ecuador, according to the published Red List (Tirira 2011), White-lipped Peccaries are considered Endangered in the Amazon, and Critically Endangered in the Pacific Coast. In the Ecuadorian Amazon, White-lipped Peccaries have been already extirpated from large areas along the lower slopes of the Andes, and are rapidly disappearing from all parts of their geographic range due to overhunting (and perhaps disease). In the Coast, where large-scale deforestation occurred during the past century, G. Zapata-Ríos (pers.comm.) documented only a few small populations remaining in Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve and its buffer zone area. Recently, in December 2010, Mexico's National Secretary of Environment also classified the species as endangered (R. Reyna-Hurtado pers. comm.). In the Chaco of Paraguay, the alarming rates of deforestation and continued hunting are a cause for alarm, and although no formal survey has taken place recently, the number of herds as well as the number of individuals in a herd is notably declining (J. Campos pers. comm.).

Both the Collared Peccary (Pecari tajacu) and White-lipped Peccary are important resources for subsistence hunters in the Peruvian Amazon, as elsewhere in the Amazon basin (Bodmer et al. 2004a). Bodmer (1995), Peres (1996), and Redford and Robinson (1987) showed that peccaries were a preferred game of native and non-native people in the Amazonian region. In Peru, subsistence hunting of peccaries is permitted and is legally defined as the use of peccary meat for household consumption or the sale of peccary meat in settlements of fewer than 3,000 inhabitants. Rural inhabitants hunt peccaries mainly for their meat, which has an economic value of approximately $23 for a Collared Peccary and $30 for a White-lipped Peccary either for subsistence food or sale (Bodmer et al. 2004b). Peccary pelts are sold as a by-product and have an economic value to hunters of approximately $5 for a Collared Peccary pelt and $3 for a White-lipped Peccary pelt (Bodmer and Pezo 2001, Fang 2003). The only country with CITES permit to export white-lipped peccary pelts for the hide trade is Peru where from 1997 to 2008 a quota of between 35,500 and 44,300 skins and leather products has been granted annually (CITES Database 2008, The pelts are tanned in Peru and sold to the European leather industry for the manufacture of high quality shoes and gloves, with the latter retailing for as much as $200 a pair. However, this activity should be careful controlled because of potential risks to White-lipped Peccary given that population monitoring methods are problematic. Also, since some pelts are rejected because of scars, parasite marks (e.g., bot flies), or bullet holes, this raises the question as to how many individuals are killed in total to obtain pelts that meet the required quality standards for international trading? Other South American countries such as Argentina and Bolivia, are exploring plans for the international commercialization of peccary pelts under CITES. Detailed surveys of the subsistence and commercial use of this species on national scales have not been undertaken in other South American range countries except Argentina (Altrichter 2005).

At the southern and northern extremes of this species' distribution its status is of particular concern. In the Argentine Chaco, Altrichter (2005) found that hunting of White-lipped Peccary was not sustainable because density of this species was three times lower in areas closer to villages than in protected areas, hunters did not discriminate between age and sex, and more than 40% of the population's production was being harvested. Population size was estimated to be at 60% of the carrying capacity (Altrichter 2005). Threats to the species in Mesoamerica (Tropical Mexico and Central America) include hunting and habitat reduction as well as un-managed legal sport hunting in a couple of Mexican States (Campeche and Quintana Roo, Reyna-Hurtado 2009a). Overall in Mesoamerica this species' situation is alarming due to rapid population decline over the last 20 years. In Mexico this species has been extirpated from Veracruz, Tabasco, Yucatan and survive only in a few populations on the largest reserves and a few large communal forests where the species is under strong hunting pressure (Reyna-Hurtado and Tanner 2007). A similar pattern has occurred for almost all the Central America countries where the species is now confined to the few large tropical forest reserves (Altrichter et al. 2012).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species occurs in numerous protected areas throughout its extensive range; however it is uncertain whether the existing network of reserves is adequate to ensure the survival of representative populations sufficient in size to maintain viable populations in all major habitat types within its distribution (Altrichter et al. 2012). It is also doubtful if most reserves are large enough to allow the formation of large herds of this species, or that there is sufficient connectivity between reserves to permit recovery when epizootic events or population crashes occur for other reasons. This is of particular concern in Central America (March 1993).

Peccary pelts were exported from many central and South American countries during the first half of the 20th century prior to the implementation of CITES in 1973. During the 1960s and 70s many countries began to prohibit the export of peccary pelts and in 1986 Collared and White-lipped Peccaries were placed on Appendix II of CITES. Peru is currently the only range state that permits legal export of peccary pelts, and hides can only be exported if they originate from subsistence hunters living in the Amazonian region. Other countries, including Bolivia and Argentina, are exploring prospects for developing a managed commercial harvest of peccary hides for export. In the case of Bolivia, peccary pelts would come out of subsistence hunting. Harvesting peccaries just for hides is not in the plans of the region (Pacheco pers. comm.). Such an expanded "legal" harvest will need to be carefully monitored since it risks inadvertently promoting illegal commercial use of the species through expanding the market, and hence demands for skins and other peccary products. A revision of the CITES permit on trade might be necessary with the growing interest of peccary hide trade in other countries.

White-lipped Peccaries are widely maintained in captivity in their countries of origin, but very rarely elsewhere, mainly because of the stringent veterinary restrictions placed on the movement of live animals into countries with significant domestic pork industry.

Research on the management, conservation, ecology, and biology has expanded in recent years. A range wide status assessment on this species has been completed, based on a workshop held in 2005, where historical and current status and distribution data were compared and main threats and population status was determined (Altrichter et al. 2012.). However, research, management and monitoring capacity is lacking in many of the range countries. Capacity building of conservation biologists, local and national government technicians, and community para-technicians is a high priority for the species. There is also a need for a review of national and local government policy and regulations for this species across its range.
Citation: Keuroghlian, A., Desbiez, A., Reyna-Hurtado, R., Altrichter, M., Beck, H., Taber, A. & Fragoso, J.M.V. 2013. Tayassu pecari. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 20 April 2014.
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