Belize joins the fight to save the White-Lipped Peccary from extinction

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

(Belize – September 8th, 2016) The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) hosted a symposium at the XX
Mesoamerican Society for Conservation Biology Congress that brought together the leading scientists in
Mesoamerica for an emergency assessment of the rapidly declining white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari), known locally as ‘warree’. The main objectives of the symposium were to map the current known locations of the remaining populations of white-lipped peccary and to determine the extent of range loss for the species in the region.The Belize Zoo-20
The white-lipped peccary has become endangered in Mesoamerica because of hunting pressure and the removal of forests for agriculture. This species is one of the wonders of the Americas, being the only large mammal that moves in large herds in forested environments. The home ranges of a herd of peccary can be up to 120 square kilometers, and the herds can number up to 200 individuals. Herd sizes like this are becoming more rare as hunting disrupts their social structure.
In Mexico and Guatemala, the species’ distribution range has been reduced by 84 percent in the last 30 years, and the mapping exercise conducted based on information from this workshop, undertaken with the financial support of the United States Fisheries and Wildlife Service, will provide the visual of just how much this range has reduced across Mesoamerica. In Belize they are only found within our last remaining large forest blocks and their herd sizes are thought to have fallen alarmingly.
Dr. Rafael Reyna of ECOSUR in Mexico and WCS Associate Researcher, led the Symposium that brought together 22 leading mammal researchers from Belize, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras and Nicaragua.
The group outlined, by country, the threats facing white-lipped peccary and discussed ongoing research, in addition to updating the map of their regional distribution. Based on this information, a call was made for an uplisting to a higher category of threat in Mesoamerica from “Vulnerable” to “Endangered” in the IUCN Red List. This will be released in the coming weeks. Dr. Reyna highlighted that “If we lose the white-lipped peccary, our children will never know of this mysterious and wonderful species that moves in huge groups through the rainforest in their endless search for fruits and muddy wallows!”
WCS was delighted to welcome Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Hon. Dr. Omar Figueroa, a specialist in the iconic jaguar and jabiru stork, who lent his experience at the symposium. Dr. Figueroa expressed that, “Focusing conservation and research efforts on wide-ranging species such as the White-lipped
Peccary will allow us to define conservation strategies that will protect a host of sympatric flora and fauna – the warree is therefore an ideal flagship species for Mesoamerica.”
The survival of our warree depends on the protection of the remaining populations in the last big forest blocks of Belize. Belizeans know warree is a popular bushmeat, but if we eat too much of it, our children may never get the chance to even see them. If we can manage our wildlife and wild places properly and sustainably, they can keep providing us with food, water, building materials and the foundation of our economy today and into the future.
Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.

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