Paraguay (1-17 July 2017) - Camille Goblet
One of the only two
landlocked, South American countries, Paraguay is often overlooked
in terms of tourism and research, which is perhaps why the Chacoan
peccary (Catagonus wagneri) has unfortunately become
critically endangered. But spending two weeks working with
the enthusiastic and determined staff of the Centro Chaqueño para
Conservación e Investigación (CCCI) in Fortin-Toledo, along with a
team of curators and veterinarians from the United States, made me
believe in the potential to save a species on the brink of
The CCCI is a small reserve located in the Gran Chaco region of
Paraguay, a region that spans the majority of the western “Region
Occidental”. It began under the name “Proyecto Taguá” (the
Taguá Project, Taguá being the local name for the Chacoan peccary)
in 1985 as a research project and captive breeding program for the
species. It has since grown to incorporate many projects that
examine the biodiversity present in the region, though the Taguá
remains its top priority.
Currently, the CCCI has a
population of 97 animals in captivity, and our goal for our two
weeks at the center was to gather health parameters on as many
animals as possible. For each immobilized animal we would
note the weight, length from snout to tail, and collect hair and
blood samples (for DNA analysis. We would also use this time
to insert a microchip and ear tag, and trim the hooves (if
necessary). It was a male, we would also proceed with an
electroejaculation protocol in order to collect semen to perform
semen analysis (which has yet to be done in this species), as well
as attempt cryopreservation.
Dr. Juan Campos, the director of the CCCI, would also note the
age and general size and health of the animal, making note of
candidates for export to U.S. zoos, an important part of
maintaining genetic diversity in reserve populations.
Once all the samples were collected and the health assessment
was complete, we would administer the reversal and put the animal
into a crate to recover before returning them to the pen.
The days proved to be long and hot (even though it was
Paraguayan winter!), and we ended each day exhausted, but
satisfied, often partaking in constructive and enthusiastic debates
about the future of animal conservation.
In total our group of nine
managed to complete 60 peccary health assessments over the course
of 11 working days, generating data that will hopefully be a step
towards saving the Chacoan peccary from extinction.