Persistence of Tagua (Catagonus wagneri) in the Paraguayan dry Chaco
Silvia Soledad Saldivar Bellassai
SUNY-College of Environmental Science and Forestry
The endangered Chacoan peccary or tagua (Catagonus wagneri) is the largest of three species of peccaries found in the Dry Chaco ecoregion of South America. In a remote region characterized by high temperatures, low rainfall, and impenetrable forests of thorn bushes and cactus, the tagua’s greatest threat is overharvest by locals that rely almost entirely on subsistence hunting for food. The tagua’s ability to maneuver through dense thorny vegetation offers it some degree of protection from hunters. However, the Chaco is rapidly being deforested for agriculture and cattle pastures, and this once remote region is being fragmented by roads. Loss of intact forest habitat is likely to increase the tagua’s vulnerability to hunting pressure.
A Sequoia Park Zoo conservation grant is partially funding travel and equipment expenses for Silvia Soledad Saldivar Bellassai to conduct a camera trapping study on tagua in her native country of Paraguay. A series of motion-detection cameras will be set up in Defensores del Chaco National Park in areas of intact forest, recent clearcuts, and roadway habitats. Triggered by motion, the cameras “capture” images of passing animals and therefore document the presence or absence of tagua and other wildlife using these habitats. These data will be used to determine the levels at which tagua occupy habitats that expose them to different levels of hunting risk, and assess whether tagua are being forced out of the “safer” intact forest habitat by the two more common and aggressive peccary species, the collared peccary (Pecari tajacu) and the white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari). This is part of a larger study to better understand the combined effects of harvest and habitat loss on tagua populations.