It all depends on what part of the world you come from. Back home in South Africa we consider guinea pigs as cute little pets kept by young girls in cages littered with sawdust bedding. They have names like George, Fluffy and Banjo. In Ecuador the exact same animal is considered a great meal, best enjoyed with a large ice-cold beer. Strange is the way of the world. Now take the guinea pig and pump it full of testosterone. Whilst you are at it do some genetic laboratory work…eventually you may just turn that cute guinea pig into a capybara. Well not really, but close enough.
The capybara is the largest rodent in the world! Native to South America, the capybara inhabits savannas and dense forests and lives near bodies of water. They are extremely social. Here at Caiman Ecological Refuge you often encounter groups of up to twenty happily foraging together. What exactly do you call a group of capybaras? Can you believe they average 50kg in weight and the world record is a sensational 91 kg of pure rodent? In their own way I cannot deny that they are very cute.
Whilst on a long walk through the Pantanal it can be quite fun to sit quietly in amongst a family of these hairy creatures. Watch them feed and interact. It also pays to listen…through a series of unusual grunts they are always communicating with each other. I think they are trying to reassure the large male that he is still in control. You will notice him…he has a very strange looking gland on the top of his nose. They are odd animals indeed and add huge value to any visit to the Pantanal.
Written and photographed by Adam Bannister