Guardatinaja – A Unique Creature in Nicaragua
One of Nicaragua’s smaller and rarer creatures is the diminutive little Guardatinaja (Agouti paca) which may be found scuttling around through the forest undergrowth. These small rodents are quite colorful when compared to other rodents yet their speckled bodies help them to blend seamlessly with their natural environment.
Since Nicaragua is a large country with a variety of different biological zones, it enjoys an abundance of zoological diversity which is shared by its neighboring countries in Central America. However, the quaint little Guardatinaja, on the other hand, is seldom found elsewhere and this makes it a unique creature.
If you are fortunate enough to see a Guardatinaja you will likely be surprised by the patterns on their coats. Their bodies are covered in a medium-length brush-like hair which sticks out in a bristly fashion but which seems to appear soft and silky. The dominant color on the coat is a dark brown but this is interspersed with creamy-yellow spots which blend to form a number of horizontal lines down the length of the body. These spots get bigger as they near the belly of the Guardatinaja where spots eventually merge with the creature’s whitish underbelly. The face is marked with fine yellow-cream lines which give the rodent a somewhat cat-like appearance.
Even more outstanding than the markings on this creature’s body is the odd shape of the Guardatinaja’s face. Incredibly small ears are tucked low against a long, oval-shaped head which tapers into a long, broad snout at the front. Unfortunately this curious little creature is considered to be a tasty morsel by those who live near the wooded areas where they live and they are actively hunted. Because of this, there is a possibility that these creatures may be endangered but so far little effort has been put into making a study of them to determine if they should be added to the area’s endangered species list.
Although the Guardatinaja are protected by law, convervationists find it is very difficult to enforce this law in large part because the protection of rats and squirrels and rodents are easily hidden from view. Hopefully the Nicaraguan government working along side of naturalists and animal rights organizations will begin exploring ways to begin protecting the Guardatinaja, and other Nicaraguan wildlife, before it becomes threatened with extinction.