Age at sexual maturity, first parturition and reproductive senescence in wild lowland pacas (Cuniculus paca): Implications for harvest sustainability


© 2019 Elsevier B.V. Generation length (GL) of a mammal, calculated through the age at sexual maturity, first reproduction and reproductive senescence can be used to assess the capacity of a population of a species to withstand differing amounts of hunting pressure by humans without depletion of animal numbers. Due to the lack of reproductive data for wild mammals, the GL is often difficult to determine for most species. In the present study, the GL parameters were assessed for the wild lowland paca (Cuniculus paca) from a sample of 119 female genitalia obtained during a 15-year hunter participatory program in the Amazon. The probability of female pacas being sexually active, with observable ovarian functionality or pregnancy, increased as both body and genitalia masses increased. The average body mass at puberty was 5.46 kg. Puberty was estimated to occur at 4 months of age, from which there was estimation when age at first parturition would occur 9 months after birth. Additionally, there was no indication that there was a decrease in parturition rate at more advanced ages. The estimated age of first reproduction for pacas was much less than previous estimates, most from assessments of captive animals. In addition, because there was no evidence of reproductive senescence, it is suggested that the average age of mature hunted pacas should be used to determine optimal harvesting rates of pacas by humans. The present study highlights the importance of in situ studies on reproduction of animals in their natural habitat because these will yield more accurate reproductive variable estimates than those obtained from captive animals. It is suggested that similar methods be used to accurately assess reproductive parameters of other tropical species that are hunted by humans

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