A wealthy neighborhood in Buenos Aires got its comeuppance when it was overtaken by capybaras.
The Guardian reported in 2021 that the struggle was akin to the country’s class warfare.
The publication described Nordelta as “Argentina’s most well-known gated community” and said environmentalists were angered by its location in the wetlands of the Paraná River.
The area was a natural habitat for the rodents, which destroyed lawns, bit dogs, and even caused traffic accidents. Time reported the conflict reached a tipping point in 2021 when the capybaras sought new food sources after a dry winter.
“Nordelta invaded the ecosystem of the carpinchos,” ecologist Enrique Viale said, using the local word for the creatures. “Wealthy real-estate developers with government backing have to destroy nature in order to sell clients the dream of living in the wild — because the people who buy those homes want nature, but without the mosquitoes, snakes or carpinchos.”
On average, capybaras weigh 108 pounds. The largest rodent in the world, they can exceed four feet in length and come close to 200 pounds. Female capybaras can give birth twice per year and usually have four offspring.
The Nordelta outcry brings to mind the recent destruction of an Arizona golf course by javelinas.
In both instances, those put out by the animals were said to be hypocritical. Many took the side of the javelinas and capybaras — dubbed “class warriors” — and relished the chaos.
“I’d love them outside my window lunching on the lawn..they’re amazing creatures,” one user wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, when the subject was raised again in March.
Why is it important?
Explosive population growth has only increased people’s competition with animals. Entitled residents and homeowners associations can make matters worse if they seek to get rid of native fauna, which can come at the expense of the environment, predators, and human comfort.
The proliferation of capybaras and subsequent environmental harm “is the fault of humans” and was helped by the virtual extinction in Argentina of its predators: jaguars, pumas, foxes, wild cats, and wild dogs, AFP reported.
“It’s happening all over the country, in urbanized and non-urbanized areas. It is caused by the alteration and degradation of ecosystems. We’ve extinguished a ton of species that were their natural predators,” Fundación Rewilding Argentina conservation director Sebastián Di Martino told AFP.
“The carpincho needs a predator to reduce its population and also make it afraid. When there’s a herbivore without a predator threatening it, it doesn’t hide and can spend all day eating, thereby degrading the vegetation which traps less carbon and contributes to climate change.”
What’s being done?
In 2022, Time reported that local officials were working with scientists to help residents peacefully coexist with the capybaras.
There were plans to limit the capybara population, perhaps with vasectomies since culling and relocation to nature preserves — because the animals wouldn’t last in the wild without fear of natural predators — were off the table.
“There was an awareness campaign, using newsletters, social media, and outreach to local press to remind residents that capybaras are generally harmless and ideally are dealt with by simply ignoring them,” Time reported.
The HOA also created new habitats for the capybaras, rewilding areas in parks, near lakes, and on the edge of town. It also installed buffer zones of reeds and bushes to provide shelter for the animals.
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