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Biologist 'discovers' scentless giant peccary

Pecari maximus, or 'Caitetu Munde' to his mates

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Dutch biologist Marc van Roosmalen has expanded the list of known peccary species to four following his "discovery" of the giant peccary, aka Pecari maximus, in the basin of the Rio Aripuanã in the south eastern Amazon.

According to the Telegraph, van Roosmalen came across the world's largest peccary during "routine field surveys". He'd already seen remains of the animal killed by local Tupi Indian hunters, and recounted his first sighting: "One day I was looking at some monkeys, and I saw three peccaries pass in front of me, totally silent. They appeared and then disappeared without making any noise."

"Later, I asked the locals what I had seen. It shows that you really have to see things and then ask people what you've seen. They are not going to tell you otherwise. It's normal to them. It turns out to be their most hunted animal."

Indeed, the giant peccary is well known to the Tupi, who call it "Caitetu Munde", or "great peccary which lives in pairs". Following genetic confirmation of its status as a distinct species by the Leiden Centre for Environmental Sciences in the Netherlands, it now joins the Chaccoan peccary, collared peccary, and white-lipped peccary on the peccary roster.

The giant peccary stands out from its cousins due to its size (large dog), a tendency to live in pairs or small family groups, its lack of "rooting behaviour", a "predominantly fruit-based diet" and the fact that it doesn't smell. Of the latter, van Roosmalen offered: "I think it's another adaptation to predation pressure from big cats. Through evolution, they cannot afford to be [as] stinky as the other ones."

Sixty-year-old van Roosmalen has a bit of a reputation for discovering new species, including the "Zog-Zog monkey, or genus Callicebus, and the shallow clear-water adapted Dwarf Manatee", according to the Telegraph.

His career hasn't been all biological fun and games, though. Earlier this year, Brazilian authorities sentenced him to 16 years' prison "on embezzlement charges and for illegally keeping orphaned monkeys in a refuge".

He eventually served just two months and was released on appeal, "claiming he had been framed by Brazilian loggers". ®

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