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Collared Peccaries, Tayassu tajacu

Located: South America

No. of Young:
1-3 piglets

Small, South American wild pigs, Collared peccaries have a rich and elaborate social life. In the wild, bands vary in size from the family unit of mother, father and generally 1-3 piglets. Bands may number as many as sixty individuals.

Like all wild pigs, when aroused or frightened, peccaries can inflict savage bites with their side teeth.

In zoos in the UK the species was thought to be reduced to 4 or 5 animals until a herd of nearly 40 strong was located at Flamingo Park Zoo in Yorkshire, where an initial complement of 4 animals in 1968 remained quite undisturbed until about 1982. The Head Keeper was a former pig farmer from Ayrshire, and these animals clearly responded to his natural empathy for pigs, thriving where in other collections they had gradually petered out. Since 1982, under the Joint Management of Species programme, Collared peccaries have been gradually built up until today they number at least 120 in a dozen collections and are well out of danger. In Glasgow numbers have fluctuated, and currently we maintain four, with births expected in 2000.

Collared Peccaries emit a musky fox-like odour which is released from scent glands on their rumps. When two animals indulge in social grooming, they stand side-by-side facing nose to tail. Each rubs its chin on top of the others rump, thus accreting scents which binds the whole group together with the family " smell ". Any stranger not smelling of the group will be attacked and killed. Even now, for no discernible reason, individuals will be picked upon by the rest of the group and driven away. When these peccaries are upset, often the first we know of it is a noisy clicking of tusks. Often it is a female who has decided to give birth outside in a corner, which she is defending against all comers. Rushing about with their hair on end is an obvious sign of alarm or excitement, often accompanied by emissions of a pungent musk, which tends to hang in the air.