MONTEVIDEO – Hunted to extinction more than a century ago, the javelina has made a comeback in Uruguay thanks to the efforts of the National Environment Directorate (Dinama) and a private wildlife reserve.
Using animals from neighboring Argentina and Paraguay, the program has succeeded in breeding roughly 400 javelinas in captivity.
Though it resembles the pig in some respects, the javelina belongs to a different lineage. Weighing up to 40 kilos (88 lbs.), the javelina subsists on a wide variety of fruits, tubers, rhizomes, bulbs, acorns and grass.
Dinama recently released 100 of the javelinas bred in captivity, transplanting the animals to a protected habitat.
“This is part of a national biodiversity strategy,” Dinama chief Alejandro Nario said, adding that the reintroduction of disappeared species requires an “exhaustive study” of genetics and habitat.
“They are complex processes and we must evaluate the animal’s response to the natural environment to see whether we can release it in other parts of the country,” he said.
Javelinas were originally hunted to extinction due to demand for hides and Nario said that authorities took steps prior to the release to educate residents about the species in hopes of discouraging poachers.
Instead, he said, the educational campaign appeared to prompt some people to go out hunting for javelinas.
Dinama, working with the Interior Ministry, managed to track down three poachers who had killed javelinas and they were brought before the courts in Uruguay’s first-ever prosecution of individuals for environmental offenses, Nario said.