Animal of the week: the Capybara
By Sara Umbrell, Layout Director
Say hello to the largest rodent in the world, the capybara! Standing at a height of roughly two feet tall at the shoulders, this unique animal was thought to be related to pigs. But after further research, they’re actually closer to our pet guinea pigs! The capybara is found in South and Central America, and is often referred to as “the water pig.” They make their home on the riverbank, near ponds and even marshes. As long as there is standing water, the capybara can thrive.
Water is a crucial part of life for these giant rodents, not only because they need to drink it, but the plants they eat are mostly aquatic as well. Capybaras are also excellent swimmers and stay underwater to avoid potential predators. Another reason the capybara is so dependent on water is that they have naturally dry skin, so constantly staying wet helps keep their skin healthy.
The diet of a capybara consists of various and usually aquatic grasses and plants. During dry spells they munch on reeds, grains, melons and squashes. Capybaras also eat their own feces, as it carries good bacteria to aid them in digesting the thicker fibers they may eat. Similar to ruminants like cows and goats, capybaras will also regurgitate their food and chew it down into smaller pieces to make it easier to digest.
Capybaras typically live in groups of up to ten, with one dominant male, a couple females and a few younger males. During the wet season though, that number may go up to 40 as groups come together to help care for the young and protect them from any lurking predators. The main predator is the jaguar, but humans have been known to hunt them too.
As the capybara usually lives in the rainforests of South and Central America, their habitat is known for being destroyed by deforestation. As of right now, deforestation is the main threat to the capybara, although some have started hunting them for meat, even using their teeth as an ornament. Hopefully deforestation slows down so these not-so-little guys can keep doing their thing.