Significance to humans

Occasionally, pacas may become pests of agricultural crops. Often a mainstay for rural populations who hunt for meat, it is also a favorite in specialist restaurants. In Amazonas, paca constitutes some 8% of the meat eaten by indigenous people, and is the third most-consumed meat after tapir and peccary.

Some 70% of an adult paca's 22-31 lb (10-14 kg) is usable meat, so it is frequently an important source of meat for rural populations. Because of the fat stored in the flesh, the meat has a very high caloric value (1,620 calories per 2.2 lb [1 kg]). It often sells for a higher price than beef. Habitat fragmentation makes things worse, concentrating populations and increasing ease of access for hunters. This is true even in supposedly protected areas. Sometimes an agricultural pest, pacas eat maize, manioc, and on plantations, co coa pods. In Costa Rica, its flesh is served on special occasions such as baptisms and weddings. Populations are locally threatened by over hunting. Pacas are important dispersers of many tree species used by humans, including Virola suri-namensis, an important commercial timber tree. Attempts have been made to domesticate the paca for use in rural populations, as a means of increasing rural health, conserving wild paca populations, and protecting the ecosystem services they provide.

1. Mountain paca (Agouti taczanowskii); 2. Paca (Agouti paca). (Illustration by Brian Cressman)

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