Calling all Wagners and Vágners!

Director´s view

Miroslav Bobek  |  20. 05. 2019


It was assumed to have been extinct or wiped out along with the giant sloths and armadillos or mastodons. Its scientific description was based on the remains found during the excavations of pre-Columbian cultures in the Argentinian part of Gran Chaca. That was back in 1930 and its scientific name, Catagonus wagneri, in Czech, ‘Wagner's Peccary’ (pekari Wagnerův), also comes from that time.

Photo: Petr Hamerník, Prague Zoo Photo: Petr Hamerník, Prague Zoo

Four decades later, in the early 1970s, American zoologist Ralph Wetzel came out with an astonishing statement: a living representative of this supposedly extinct/wiped out artiodactyl had been discovered in Gran Chaca! Even in that time, the Chacoan Peccary was not very numerous, living only in the dry thorny forests of Gran Chaca. Over time, due to deforestation and many other human-related factors, it has become an endangered species. Its current numbers in the wild are unknown; at best, it will be thousands of individuals. That is why Proyecto Taguá, a research and breeding station for the Chacoan Peccary, has been set up in Paraguay as has a conservation programme for this species, which has been running in Europe since 2015. Prague Zoo was also involved and in 2016 curator Barbora Dobiášová obtained four Chacoan Peccaries.

Obtaining the Chacoan Peccaries was a very prestigious matter, but we did not expect too much public interest. It is both exceptional and endangered, but, after all, it’s just a pig. This concern turned out to be unfounded. In addition to the Chacoan Peccary’s interesting story and remarkable appearance, the fact that its Czech name is Wagner's Peccary and that there are 2,689 Wagners, 668 Wágners, 3,738 Vágners and 454 Vagners also played a role. I believe that the reason the Chacoan Peccary is just behind the incredibly popular western gorilla in the number of sponsors and adoptive parents is thanks to its namesakes and, in particular, their (mischievous?) friends and acquaintances.

Photo: Petr Hamerník, Prague ZooPhoto: Petr Hamerník, Prague Zoo

So now, my dear Wagners, Vagners and all other readers, here’s another opportunity. Our peccaries have just had two offspring. They were born precisely two weeks ago. We are only the third European zoo, after Berlin and Plankendael, that has managed such a feat! The birth of these piglets came just a few months after dozens of peccaries in the Paraguayan breeding station at Proyecto Taguá recently succumbed to a previously unknown deadly disease that is most likely ravaging the wild population too. This means breeding in American and European zoos is all the more important. Whatever your name is, we will be grateful if you could support the peccary! Details can be found here.