White-lipped peccaries have declined by as much as 87% to 90% from their historical range in Central America, signaling a population collapse of a key species in the region, according to a study published recently in the journal Biological Conservation. The research was conducted by a team of 50 scientists from 30 organizations including Washington State University, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and El Colegio de Frontera Sur.
A pig-like animal that is an important food source for large animal predators and humans alike, the white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari) also plays a critical ecological role by dispersing seeds and creating water holes that benefit other animals. The study found that current IUCN estimates underestimated the population decline. The study results are a 63% drop from the current IUCN range estimates for the region.
“White-lipped peccary populations are in more of a critical condition than previously thought,” said lead author Dan Thornton, assistant professor in the School of the Environment at Washington State University. “While these results are sobering, they also offer a roadmap on how to conserve this iconic, ecologically important species.”