Peculiar Peccaries

Peculiar Peccaries

Date sent: Thu, 14 Aug 1997
From: Debbie Jacobs

After years of traveling and guiding in the mountains and on the rivers of New Zealand I took my experiences and developed Explorations in Travel. I work with high school and university teachers to design active, educational travel programs for their students. I always try to include a work project in the itinerary so students have the opportunity to contribute their energy to a worthwhile organization. Many students were interested in returning to work sites as long term volunteers and I began to arrange individual volunteer placements.

One of our first volunteers, Art Cartwright age 57, had contacted us because he had dreams of relocating to Costa Rica and felt that it would be wise to spend some time in the country and that volunteering was a good way to do it. We arranged a placement for him with the Costa Rica National Parks. During his time in Costa Rica he had the opportunity to work in several Parks. After having boa constrictors fall on him in the middle of the night, sharing a room with a poisonous spitting toad and a losing battle with chiggers, he informed me that he had had enough explorations in travel!! The following is just one of the 'interesting and adventurous' experiences that he relayed to me.

"I haven't seen people all day and the water of the Pacific ocean is sparkling blue and warm as bath water. I spend about a half hour body surfing, and just plain feeling good about myself, and the rest of the world. The weather on the west coast of this country is much kinder to humans than the areas I just came from. It is around 90 degrees, with brilliant sunshine. The only thing missing is a rum-based drink with an umbrella in it. I lay there for awhile, taking in the scenery, feeling very much like Robinson Crusoe, and thinking that I had it made now. This area doesn't seem hostile at all.

Before long my clothes were dry and I don them and head back to the ranger station. I don't want to leave this idyllic, restful place but I don't want to be out in the jungle when the sun goes down after my experience in Tortuguero the night my flashlight went out. Within an hour or so I stop and rest at the crest of the hill I'd just climbed. I'm sitting watching a brilliant yellow bird flitting around from tree to tree when suddenly I get a whiff of a heavy, musky smell. I remembered talking to a local in Cahuita on my previous trip to Costa Rica about dangerous animals in the jungle. He said that the only thing besides snakes that made him nervous were peccaries. He said that you could usually tell when they were around from a musk that they emitted. Instantly I'm alert and on my feet looking all around the bush for any signs of movement. I hear a grunt up the trail and suddenly this little brown animal emerges out of the brush and looks straight at me. He's about 60 feet up the path and I'm looking for tree to get into. I break for tree 10 feet away as five more of these animals appear out of the brush. The moment I move, they charge, grunting and squealing. I make it into the tree as the forest erupts with these creatures. There must be at least 25 of them.

The collared peccary is a small, pig-like animal that stands about a foot and half tall and weighs about 60 pounds. It has tusks and sharp teeth which they gnash when attacking, producing a very unnerving and vicious appearance. I once saw a video of a jaguar who caught one of these little pigs alone away from his pack. It looked like an easy meal and the jaguar pounced on it. This wiry little animal exploded. In a furious ball of teeth and tusks the only thing you could see was the jaguar vaulting all over the clearing trying to evade those slashing teeth. The big cat gave up the attack as a bad bet. The peccary was not content with a good defense and went on the attack. The last you saw was the cat running for his life off through the jungle with this bad-tempered little pig in hot pursuit!

So here I am, 5 feet off the ground, standing on a crotch in the tree with a mass of snarling, grunting peccaries milling about beneath me, gnashing their teeth and looking very upset. So much for this kinder, gentler jungle out here. They are all taking turns running at the tree and ramming it. The tree I'm in has a trunk of about 6 inches in diameter and it gives a pretty good shake every time one of these little buggers slams into it. They are all looking like they would like nothing better than to turn me into some sort of pizza topping. I've got a hunting knife on my belt but I don't want to take on one of these nasty little critters, let alone 25 of them!

So it looks like we have a stand-off. An hour passes and they gradually start losing interest in me and begin drifting off into the brush. Soon they are all gone with their grunts fading off into the forest. Silence. My ears, nose and eyes are all working better than they ever have in my life. What with the blinding speed they exhibited in their charge I don't even want to get out of the tree. The jungle is hushed now and I'm standing in this tree looking like a masthead on a sailing ship. I wait another half hour until I'm fairly sure that they are gone and then return to the ground. For lack of a better description, I sneak, back toward the station. Finally the station appears and I'm feeling much safer again.

I read an account once of a man who was attacked by a band of peccaries and all he did was to stand stock still while they milled about him. Sure! No way Jose!"

Debbie Jacobs

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