The Capybara or ‘Watrush’

The Capybara or ‘Watrush’

Posted By Stabroek staff On September 9, 2012  Iwokrama

The Capybara or ‘Watrush’ as it’s known in Guyana is the largest rodent in the world.  It’s scientific name, Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris, means ‘water horse,’ an apt name as they are almost always found near water and have specially adapted partially webbed paws with which give them a distinctive star shaped footprint.

Capybara have heavy, barrel-shaped bodies, with a large, rectangular-shaped heads.  Their eyes are small with their ears set high on their head.  They grow up to 4 feet in length and typically weigh 77 to 150 lbs.  They are a uniform tan or yellowish brown with short fur and from a distance, resemble an overgrown Guinea Pig.    

They feed solely on grasses and aquatic vegetation and like all rodents, their teeth grow continually to compensate for the wear caused by their vegetarian diet and constant gnawing. They can be solitary (mainly during the dry season) but can live in family groups from 2 to 20 in open and seasonally flooded savannahs during the rainy season. They are usually diurnal (active at dawn and dusk) and are often seen sitting, dog like on their haunches along the sandy banks of Rupununi River during the dry season.

 Capybara     Photo by G Watkins  

When in estrus, the female has the advantage and mating choice; as mating takes place in the water, the female will submerge or leave the water to avoid undesirable males.  Gestation takes about 130-50 days and a litter of 4 pups are usually produced; however a litter of 8 is not uncommon.  Within a week, the babies can eat grass but will continue to suckle for up to 16 weeks.

A favourite prey for jaguar, and also hunted by humans for meat, they are highly vocal and make high-pitched squeaks and grunts when alarmed and will plunge into the water and swim under the surface to escape.  In areas where they are overhunted, they have adapted to feed during the night. Their natural range is from Central to South America (Panama to NE Argentina) and in some countries, they are farmed for their meat and leather.  They are listed by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) but are not considered endangered or threatened; however, due to hunting pressures, they may be more difficult to see along the rivers and inhabited areas of Guyana.

Rain forests are rich in biodiversity and are home to many different plants and animals as well as indigenous communities. 

Humans, even those who don’t live in the rain forest, rely on it for resources such as building materials (wood and lianas), medicine and fruits. 

Rain forests also provide essential environmental services for life on earth; they create soil as well as prevent soil erosion, produce oxygen through photosynthesis, maintain clean water systems, and are a key defence against climate change.  

The Iwokrama Rain Forest is 371,000 hectares, located in the heart of Guyana. Our mission is to develop strategies for conservation and sustainable development for local people in Guyana and the world at large. 
We are involved in timber, tourism and training.  Come and visit us in the rain forest or at

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  • wycs  On 12/15/2012 at 7:12 pm

    I have visited Iwokrama on two occasions, spent four days each time. There is so much to see including the Canopy walk way which is about a hundred + feet height and a sight to behold.

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