Wild pigs (including wild boars and wild domestic pigs) are invading protected natural areas in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay.
Due to their ability to compete with native species for food, change landscapes and transmit disease, feral pigs now threaten hundreds of species in 54 different countries around the world and a 2021 study found that 14 species have been driven to extinction as a direct result. of wild pig impacts.
This is part of a global trend: a recent report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services concluded that invasive species played a key role in 60% of global plant and animal extinctions.
Argentine biologist Sebastián A. Ballari, a researcher at CENAC, a research center in Patagonia’s Nahuel Huapi National Park, says his current work is to investigate the multiple impacts that wild boars and other ungulates have introduced (e.g. red deer Cervus elaphuscattle Bos Touro) have in the native ecosystems of Patagonia, particularly in the Nahuel Huapi National Park.
In a recent article published in Magazine for Nature Conservation, which Ballari co-authored, the researchers found that the number of protected areas with a known presence of wild pigs was led by Uruguay (100%), followed by Chile (20.3%), Argentina (15.8%), Paraguay ( 9.5%), Bolivia (6.5%) and Brazil (4.7%).
“Our work represents the first assessment of the potential distribution of feral swine in South America and highlights the potentially devastating impacts of feral swine on regional biodiversity and national conservation goals, especially in megadiverse areas,” says Ballari, adding that researchers are assessing ecological and economic impacts, taking into account the perceptions of residents and producers of these species, in order to develop more effective management and control recommendations.
“This is important for the conservation of ecosystems and their biodiversity, but also as a contribution to sustainable and responsible management of resources by residents and producers”, he states.
Call of the Wild
Ballari grew up in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, but always had a passion for wild spaces.
“I’ve loved nature and wildlife since I was little, and when I graduated from high school, I was sure I would study something related to animals and their environment, and that’s how I got into biology,” he says, “I’ve maintained that focus and enthusiasm to this day, and that is how I am able to live and enjoy my work as a wildlife researcher and ecologist today.”
After high school, he left the city and moved to Patagonia, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from the National University of Comahue in Bariloche, Argentina, before earning a master’s degree in wildlife management and a Ph.D. . in Biology from the National University of Córdoba.
“After completing my PhD, I returned to Bariloche, where I did my postdoctoral work and got a full-time research position at CONICET,” he says, “The inclusion and active participation of scientists from the Global South in research and scientific decision-making -doing at a global level are probably essential to effectively address, with a broad, inclusive, diverse and integrative vision, the challenging problems facing our world today.”
Another researcher from Latin America trying to track invasive species is Colombian biologist Ada Acevedo-Alonso.
In Colombia, Louisiana crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) is a species native to the southern United States that was introduced to Colombia in the mid-1980s and is now considered an invasive species.
“They arrived in Colombia with a license from the ICA in 1985, in Valle del Cauca, for aquaculture purposes (it didn’t work) and in 1988 they fled to the Palmira River,” she says.
Acevedo-Alonso is now educating communities about an invasive species of crayfish, while also studying the freshwater creature’s distribution and impacts on the environment.