The Paca of Costa Rica
The Lowland Paca is one of three species in the family Cuniculidae, and these large rodents are prized for their meat among many people in Central and South America.
Of the three species of Paca, the Lowland Paca is found from Central to South America. The Mountain Paca and Hernández’s Paca are specific to South America. The Lowland Paca inhabits mangrove swamp, gallery forest and rainforest. Some of the places they can be seen in Costa Rica include Juan Castro Blanco National Park, Corcovado National Park, Carara National Park, Arenal Volcano National Park and the Children’s Eternal Rainforest.
Mating & Reproduction
Pacas usually mate in water. As the male approaches the female, she begins to leap up and down ardently. She becomes more excited if the male urinates on her. When the female is impregnated, gestation lasts between 114 and 119 days. A female can be impregnated three times in a year, and weaning may overlap with pregnancy.
The young are born relatively well-developed. Their mother generally digs a hole too small for herself or predators, and births the young in to their new burrow. They are encouraged to come out when their mother calls to them. They are weaned within 90 days.
Pacas are important seed dispersers as their favorite food is generally fallen fruit. They also eat leaves, buds, flowers, fungi and insects. Mothers also feed themselves on the urine and fecal matter of their young.
Pacas are great swimmers and prefer being near water. They can stay underwater for up to 15 minutes with one breath, and they can leap a full meter in one bound. They are often diurnal, but prefer eating in the morning or early afternoon. Some groups of Pacas are nocturnal, because of predators that hunt them with greater frequency in the daytime.
Pacas are preyed upon by Jaguarundi, boa constrictors, jaguars, caiman, pumas and bush dogs
Pacas have adopted the strength in numbers defense mechanism, and are often found in large groups. They also make loud calls to each other to warn of approaching predators, or in the case of mothers, to coax their young out of burrows.
Where to see it in Costa Rica: Juan Castro Blanco National Park, Corcovado National Park, Carara National Park, Arenal Volcano National Park, Children’s Eternal Rainforest
Diet: leaves, stems, roots, seeds, fruit
Migration Pattern: non-migratory
Habitat: mangrove swamp, gallery forest, rainforest
Size: length=50-77 cm weight=6-14 kg tail=13-23 cm
Species: Cuniculus paca