THE WILD DANCE OF THE PACA: A Disappearing Species
~ by Jack Ewing
The names of two rainforest rodents can be confusing.
One is the paca (Agouti paca) known as the Tepezcuintle in Spanish and the other the Agouti (Dasyprocta punctata) known as the cherenga or guatusa in Spanish. Both are large rodents, but the agouti is dark brown and diurnal, and the paca is much larger, light brown with rows of white spots, and is nocturnal.
The paca is mercilessly pursued by hunters, and is in serious danger of extinction in much of the country, while the agouti holds little appeal for hunters. We still have lots of agoutis and a few pacas in Costa Ballena, but most hunters seem to be hell bent on killing every last paca. As the paca’s diet consists almost exclusively of seeds and fruits, the meat is juicy and delicious. Unscrupulous restaurants will pay up to $100 for a 10 kilo paca.
Hunting is illegal and the fines extremely high, but enforcement is almost non-existent.
The paca usually lives in a burrow which it sometimes digs itself and sometimes steals from an armadillo or some other animal. This den always has at least one emergency exit called an uzú. When trapped in the burrow by hunting dogs or some other predator the uzú is the escape route.
Pacas are monogamous and share a territory of about three hectares, though they are not often seen together. One of my trail cameras once captured a video of two adult pacas together, one of them leaping into the air while twisting and contorting its body, and the other appeared to be attacking it. Later I read in Mark Wainwright’s Mammals of Costa Rica that the one doing the wild dance was the male who was trying to pee on the female. She resists forcefully until she is pretty well covered with urine.
Then she suddenly becomes all lovey dovey and allows the male to mate. Somehow it doesn’t sound very romantic to me.
INFO: Jack Ewing – Hacienda Barú - [email protected]