White-Lipped Peccary

By Marla Lise

Photo by Alexine Keuroghlian

White-Lipped Peccary

Scientific Name: Tayassu pecari

White-Lipped Peccaries are found in the Cerrado and Pantanal forests of South America.

Peccaries might have certain characteristics similar to pigs and warthogs; however, they do not belong to the same family. They do wallow in the mud and use their snouts to dig up fruit, seeds and roots, just like pigs and warthogs, but similarities stop there. One major difference is that the canines of pigs and warthogs never stop growing – therefore they end up growing right through the top of the pigs’ snouts – sealing them shut, leaving the animal to slowly starve to death. Peccaries are also not omnivores. They feed mainly on fruit but are also known to eat plants and roots.

Peccaries can grow up to 130 cm and weigh about 32 kg. They have 4 large canines in the front of their mouth – used for warding off predators and their molars help them crush seeds. In the forest, you can hear them clamp their teeth shut – like slapping two wooden rulers together. They travel in big herds ranging from 20-100 individuals, like a big family hike through the forest.

They are also unique because they give birth to twins, usually a pair a year. When peccaries encounter a predator, they scatter like marbles in all different directions to cause confusion. This behavior has given birth to an urban legend that the peccaries actually surround people and kill them. However, peccaries will not harm people.

Peccary numbers are dwindling due to the deforestation occurring in this region. Most of the land is being cleared to raise cows for meat. The peccary is not listed on the IUCN Red List for endangered animals as yet, however, if their homes continue to be destroyed, we could — someday — end up losing them forever.

White-lipped peccary posing for a self-portrait at a camera trap. Photo by Alexine Keuroghlian

Learn more about peccaries!

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