The Utterly Cute and Deliciously Edible Tepezcuintle

One of our Tico neighbors found this baby animal in the woods, cowering in a hollow log. It appeared to him that it had been abandoned by the mother, so he took pity on it and brought it home to care for it. It wasn't much bigger than a large kitten then. It took to bottle feeding of raw goat's milk right away. It's just about big enough now to release back to the wild.

A young tepezcuintle or lowland paca
Cute and possibly delicious, but who could render it lifeless? No me.

It is called a tepezcuintle in this part of Costa Rica, a piscuintle up north and has a multitude of other names throughout México and Central America. The common name in English is the lowland paca. They can grow up to 26 lbs in weight and produce two litters a year, although I'm not sure "litter" is appropriate since they only give birth to one or two progeny each time.


In Costa Rica at least, they used to be quite common, but their numbers have dwindled to the point where they are now considered threatened and it is illegal to hunt them or raise them without a permit. Thus, my neighbor is breaking the law, but I know his heart is in the right place, so I'd never think of turning him in.

People who have killed and eaten them claim they produce the most succulent meat on the planet, which is the main reason they were so heavily hunted. According to a different neighbor, there were none in our area 25 years ago, but they are now making a comeback.

If I had time (I don't), I'd love to raise a dozen for release back to the wild. They are virtually harmless, though they will eat yam, yucca, sugar cane and corn crops. On the other hand, they are quite docile and cute as a bug's ear.

2 comments:

  1. from my experience in Costa Rica I would say that the laws protecting them are mostly ignored

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's truth in that as a result of lax enforcement, but at least they seem to be making a small comeback in our area.

      Delete

Thanks so much for your comment! - Casey

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