In every ZieZoo we introduce you to an animal species from Northern Belize. After all, Burgers' Zoo has maintained a large nature reserve with tropical forest, lagoons and mangroves in that region for over 25 years. You are probably surprised to read about collared peccaries here today. Especially because these hoofed animals inhabit an area in the Desert at Burgers' Zoo, which represents a desert area in North America. Still this is right, because peccaries, ecologically speaking, feel at home anywhere!
Hoofed animals did not occur in the original fauna of South America; peccaries developed in the current North America. About three million years ago a land bridge was created between North and South America due to a continental drift; and with this also Central America became a fact. Following this various animal species expanded their territory. Possums and Armadillos migrated north from South America and can now also be found in the southern states of the US. On the other hand however, hoofed and cat-like animals migrated south from the north. And these days the territory of the collared peccaries is significantly greater in Central and South America than it is in North America!
The collared peccary can adapt to the various habitats rather easily. In the dry desert peccary groups rest in the shadow during the day, preferably in a dry river bed where it is just a little cooler. During the hot summers in the desert they are active almost only at night. In these surroundings they primarily eat vegetarian foods and in particular the prickly pear cactus. Somewhat more to the south in the Central American deciduous forests, they can also, on occasion, be seen at the end of the day in the twilight. Their diet has a little more variation here and in addition to the roots of plants and tuberous plants they also eat mushrooms, insects and nuts. It appears that collared peccaries in the tropical rain forests of South America are omnivores. Studies indicate that in the wet forests they also like to eat fruit, bird eggs and small animals. They are not only flexible animals with respect to their food, but also with respect to their social behaviour and their ability to cooperate, which allows them to survive in areas with many potential enemies. So it will not be too surprising to find out that the strong collared peccary is not an endangered species because of its large habitat and great capability to adapt.
Peccaries are cloven-hoofed animals, which qua appearance look a lot like wild boars, but they have a different anatomy, such as a different set of teeth and a different stomach. Therefore they are classified in a family of their own. Peccaries are not ruminants, but their stomach consists of three chambers. The stomach is relatively small. Despite the small volume useful bacteria in the stomach help the peccary with the digestion of fibre-rich foods. In addition, this probably plays a role in rendering the oxalic acid in the food harmless. Oxalic acid can be found in many nuts and various green plants and too much oxalic acid could cause kidney problems.