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Age structure of the Vulnerable white-lipped peccary Tayassu pecari in areas under different levels of hunting pressure in the Amazon Forest

  • Rossano Marchetti Ramos (a1), Juarez C. B. Pezzuti (a2) and Emerson M. Vieira (a3)

Subsistence hunting can change the demographic structure of wild mammal populations, increasing the proportion of young animals, inducing females to reproduce early and increasing litter sizes. We examined the relationship between hunting pressure and age structure in the Vulnerable white-lipped peccary Tayassu pecari, analysing the distribution of age classes at seven sites in the region Terra do Meio in the Brazilian Amazon. These sites differ in the number of human inhabitants and hence were subject to differing hunting pressures. We completed semi-structured interviews with local people to assess the importance of hunting and of the white-lipped peccary as food. We also estimated the age of hunted white-lipped peccaries by assessing tooth eruption and tooth wear in skulls of hunted individuals. Our results indicated that the white-lipped peccary was the most frequently hunted terrestrial animal in the region. Fishing, followed by hunting, provided the main sources of animal protein. Our data suggest there is no relationship between age structure and hunting at the study sites. The social structure and mobility of white-lipped peccaries seem to minimize the effects of hunting on age structure. Our results, similar to previous studies, show that the age structure of the white-lipped peccary is robust to hunting impacts. Other factors may have stronger effects on age structure than subsistence hunting. We suggest that deforestation may explain the prevalence of older individuals in peccary populations to the north of our study sites.

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