Capybara are the largest member of the rodent order. They are over a metre in length and can weigh as much as an adult human when fully grown. They are adapted to a semi-aquatic lifestyle with their ears, eyes and nostrils placed high on their stocky head. They have coarse light brown fur.
Capybara are brilliant swimmers and can submerge themselves for up to five minutes. They have webbed feet to aid in swimming and a layer of fat to make them buoyant. They use the water as a safe place from predators, making a barking noise to warn the group of possible danger.
Breeding occurs throughout the year. Capybara have a promiscuous society with dominant and lower ranking males all breeding. Mating occurs in the water with births around 150 days later. Infants are born well developed and can walk shortly after birth. They begin to graze grass at just three weeks old but continue to suckle from their mother and other related females until three months old.
Capybara are grazing animals feeding mainly on grasses and aquatic plants such as water hyacinth. They will occasionally eat fruit and other plant material.
The major threat facing capybara is hunting for their skin. Leather made from capybara hide is highly valued within South America and thousands of skins are exported every year. In areas where pressure from hunting is high, capybara have become locally extinct. Despite this, population numbers in other areas remain high and the IUCN classifies them as Least Concern.
- Conservation Status: Least Concern
- Distribution: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela
- Habitat: Grassland, Tropical Forest
- Diet: Fruit, Grasses, Herbivore
- Height: 60cm
- Weight: 35 – 66kg
- Gestation: 150 days
- No. of young: 2 – 8
- Life Span: 6 years