Anna’s Nature Field Note: The Capybara

The Capybara: The Largest Rodent in the World

I’ve got to let you all know, rodents freak me out. Rats, just look at their tails? But the largest rodent in the world, would that freak me out still? Yes it did. What I’m telling you all about is the Capybara: the largest rodent in the world! They call the capybara in Venezuela the: Chigüiro (chee-gwee-ro). When I went to Los Llanos (which means the flat lands in Spanish) I got to go on a safari and the capybaras were everywhere!

What do we see in nature?

When I was in Los Llanos, it was a very dry, flat land filled with many different types of birds, cattle, crocodiles and capybaras. Los Llanos in Venezuela are known for their amazing amount of wildlife and the majority of the land is used for raising cattle. The best way to describe it is to think of the old western movies, or think of the Wild West backing the 1800s, that’s what it’s like!

What does this creature or plant look like?

The capybara is a mix between a dog and a large hamster! It can weight from 77 to 150 pounds! How crazy is that? It might be bigger than two of you put together! And it can get as tall as four feet high. It lives in a good part of South America and mostly in flat, plains where cattle are raised or in forests.  Basically any place where it can graze and eat plants is where you’ll find one! It’s awesome to see them travel, because they travel in packs. So even from far away you can see these masses of large rodents roaming to find grass or leaves to eat!

How did I feel when I saw it?

I was super excited to see them! They are famous creatures throughout South America as well as Venezuela! It was weird to think that these animals look so different to me but when I see squirrels run across my streets back at home I don’t even give it a second thought! And that’s how the people in Venezuela think of the capybaras, just another animal walking around! It must have looked so funny to the Venezuelans to see 20 Americans freaking out and taking tons of pictures of this animal. If I were to see people from another country taking tons of pictures of the squirrels in Wisconsin, I would definitely start laughing.

Where does it live?

The capybara lives throughout South America but in Venezuela it lives in Los Llanos. It lives in any place where it can find water and eat on shrubbery, that’s why it has thrived in Los Llanos. This is because it is filled with grasslands and many rivers as well as many irrigation rivers that keep the grass growing for the cattle that also live there.

How does it use its environment to survive?

Before Los Llanos was used for cattle ranching the capybara lived mostly in densely forested areas with swamps, rivers and lakes nearby. But due to the increase in cattle raising in Los Llanos and the increase in creating man-made rivers and lakes the capybaras have migrated to live in Los Llanos because there is a sufficient amount of shrubbery and water. Because they eat and drink off the resources that are meant for the cattle!

What can harm this creature? Are we worried about it?

The capybara does not have any major predators in Los Llanos. It was crazy to see a group of capybaras sitting in the same water hole as a seven-foot long crocodile! But the capybara is too big to eat, therefore it can “co-exist” (anyone know what this means?) with the crocodiles! The capybara’s extinction is not even a worry in anyone’s minds in South America. The capybara is used traditionally for meat during the Lent season (during Easter) for people in Venezuela. But because it is not over hunted its species is thriving in Venezuela!

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This picture perfectly describes Los Llanos. The capybaras, the cattle, and the birds all living in harmony!

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Los Llanos is known for having some really cool birds.  This is one I spotted at sunrise!

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The capybara lives perfectly with the cattle that are raised in Los Llanos! These type of cattle are originally from India!

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Here is them in their group, roaming from one watering-hole to the next!

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Up close and personal!

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Here’s my first spotting of the capybara in Los Llanos!

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