Are There Capybaras In Colombia?

credit: Peter Parker

Colombia has a wealth of unique wildlife that inhabit its forests, savannas, and grasslands. Those who look carefully can spot jaguars, monkeys, tapirs, and anacondas! However, what about capybaras? Let’s take a look and see if these furballs make their home in Colombia!

There are greater and lesser capybaras in Colombia, with lesser ones living closer to the Venezuelan border. Travelers can see them at Llanos, Darién Gap, and El Tuparro National Natural Park. The IUCN lists them as vulnerable due to habitat loss, hunting, and disease. They are not openly hostile.

Do Capybaras Live In Colombia?

The greater capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) and the lesser capybara (Hydrochoerus isthmius) live in Colombia. Greater capybaras are much more common in Colombia than lesser capybaras.

Capybaras have a friendly and docile nature that makes it easy for them to get along with other species. They have no qualms about making peace with birds, monkeys, or even crocodiles.

They are incredibly playful and enjoy taking a cool dip in the water just as much as people! Their intelligence allows them to perform tricks and respond when someone calls their name.

They are highly sociable creatures who prefer to live in groups of ten to twenty capybara. These small communities consist of 2 – 4 adult males, 4 – 7 adult females, and a handful of young capybara. In arid seasons, their numbers can swell between 50 – 100 capybaras per group!

The males create social bonds and decide what is best for the group. These fascinating creatures can imitate dog-like barks and communicate with their body posture and scent. Part of their social interaction involves grooming one another to demonstrate affection or by gently bumping heads.

Since capybaras are semi-aquatic mammals, they prefer to find a home near a water source. Their impressive amphibious webbed feet and thick fur allow them to spend a lot of time in the water.

Furthermore, they can also hold their breath underwater for five minutes, which they use as their main escape from predators. It’s also ideal for gathering food and helps them regulate their body temperature.

How Big Are Capybaras?

Adult male capybaras grow to about 41 – 52 in (106 – 134 cm) long and 20 – 24 in (50 – 62 cm) tall at their shoulder blades.  

Their weight can vary depending on where they live,  but males average weigh 77 – 146 lbs (35 – 66 kg). Females are roughly the same size, but they weigh more. They can weigh 162 – 201 lbs (74 – 91 kg).

There is a significant size difference between the greater and lesser capybaras. The lesser ones reach up to 36 in (91 cm) long and weigh 62 lbs (28 kg).

Newborn capybaras weigh 2 – 5 lbs (1 – 2 kg) on their first day. Surprisingly, they have fur and teeth when they are born and start to swim shortly afterward.

They spend most of their time with their mom for warmth and protection and eat solid foods after a few days. Mom cares for them for 18 weeks, at which point they weigh about 88 lbs (40 kg) and start satisfying their curiosity for adventure.

Where Are Capybaras In Colombia?

Travelers wishing to catch a glimpse of capybara in their natural habitat can do so at a handful of destinations.

  • Llanos – Llanos are magnificent tropical grasslands and savannas near the Andes in Colombia. Travelers can explore the area by taking a wildlife safari and learning about capybara and other creatures in their natural habitat.

Some wildlife reserves in the area have accommodations for overnight stays and fun-filled activities for the entire family. Horseback riding, hikes, and safari truck rides are some of the things travelers engage in to satisfy their curiosity. 

  • El Tuparro National Natural Park – El Tuparro National Natural Park is near the border of Venezuela. It boasts plenty of different ecosystems working together for survivability. Travelers can expect rivers, savannas, waterfalls, and rivers, all ideal spots for capybara.

Monkeys, jaguars, anacondas, and tapirs also call it home. Some of the most fascinating features of the park are its indigenous rock paintings that express the long history of the surrounding indigenous peoples.

Are Capybaras In Colombia Dangerous?

Capybaras are naturally peaceful creatures that try to get along with other species. They are herbivorous mammals that consume leaves and grass or go for a refreshing dip in the nearest pond.

However, capybaras can get aggressive when someone disrupts or when they feel threatened. They have sharp teeth and claws that are capable of leaving severe wounds. As wild animals, their behavior is not entirely predictable, so it’s better to use caution.

As pets, they can be difficult to please because they require a lot of space, water, and food, and they can be noisy and messy!

Therefore, capybaras in Colombia are not dangerous as long as travelers respect their privacy and leave them in their natural habitats.

Are Capybaras In Colombia Protected?

Colombia has laws in place to protect capybaras because the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists them as a vulnerable species.

They face threats from hunting, disease, and habitat loss. Capybaras also fall under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This organization regulates the animal product trade.

Colombia considers capybara resources, meaning the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development allows people to hunt them under stringent regulations. A select few indigenous people with a permit and who meet specific criteria may hunt them.

Capybaras are a source of leather and food for some and act as a fantastic source of ecotourism and scientific research. It’s possible to see their impression of the local folklore and mythology of the indigenous peoples of Colombia. Many tribes consider them sacred creatures.