The Wild Life

Wild capybaras with caiman (photo by Coral Waters)

Wild capybaras with caiman (photo by Coral Waters)

I think humans are romantics. They have dreamy visions of the world. Fantasies based only loosely on reality. I think this because so many people comment that I would be better off in the wild. If I could actually speak human, I would tell them that they would be better off in the wild.

I’m not saying that all capybaras should be pets. In some ways I do envy my wild cousins. I’d like to be free to travel far and wide. To swim the languorous Amazon. To graze grassy meadows stretching as far as the eye can see. To lie with a band of my family and friends under the scant shade of bushes in the heat of the day. It sure sounds great.

But see that photo at the top of this post? That is a young caiman with a couple of adult capys. Caiman are like alligators. That one is too small to hurt those capys and they all know it. But it could catch a baby capybara and eat it. Or it’s larger friends could even threaten those adult capys.

And caiman aren’t the only dangers that lurk in the water.

The photo below shows an Orinoco crocodile. Those crocs make caiman look like midgets. They can easily eat a full grown capybara and come back for seconds.

Orinoco Crocodile

Orinoco Crocodile

And have you heard of these guys? They are called piranhas. How many of you humans want to get in the water with them? Okay, so they are generally harmless…except when they’re not.



Does anyone recognize this deceptively lazy-looking snake? It’s an anaconda, the largest snake in the world. Want to know what it’s favorite food is? Capybara.



And that’s not all. There are jaguars and pumas that eat capybaras of all sizes. There are eagles and vultures that eat baby capybaras. There are parasites and diseases. But the photo below shows our greatest enemy.



Its humans. You hunt us for meat and for leather. You drain our habitat to grow crops or cattle. You build roads that divide our swamps with corridors of death.

My grandpa, Captain, lives in Arkansas. He is 18 years old. The average life expectancy of a wild capybara in a relatively protected ranch environment is less than two years. A rare individual lives to be five or six and that is only the females who are less likely to be “harvested” and who can live in bands with their sisters. Males are usually driven to solitary and especially dangerous lives.

I am sorry to tell you but the wild of your fantasies does not exist. When you find the “garden of Eden” that you imagine the wild is, let me know and we can all go live there.

8 comments to The Wild Life

  • Teresa Moore

    I’m glad you wrote this.
    Yes, we humans have a fantasy about life in the wild.
    You–Caplin, except for not being allowed to travel at will, have an OK life in Buda, Texas,

    I would only add that not all humans should be allowed to own exotic animals–only those who can demonstraye that they know how to adequately care for their exotics and should be allowed to have the necessary permits. (ie roadside “zoos” should be banned!)

  • Thanks for a well-presented dose of reality.

  • Alex

    That’s exactly what Gerald Darrell always wrote in his books about animals in the wild.

  • Well said (and nicely illustrated).

    I think it’s worth adding that most animals can’t travel whereever they want in the wild either, any more than a person can just move into the house next door if they decide they like it. If those other places are nice enough that an animal wants to visit them, they’re probably someone else’s territory. If they’re not someone else’s territory it’s probably because they’re dangerous or there isn’t enough food or shelter. Travel, like all those other fantasies, isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

  • Shelby

    Thanks, Caplin. I’ve been thinking about endangered species and zoos this week. (I was looking at some pictures of pandas.) Capybaras are not endangered, are they?

  • Caplin Rous

    Capybaras are currently listed as “species of least concern,” so no, we are not endangered. However it is just a matter of time given the hunting of wild capybaras for meat and leather and the rate of habitat destruction going on throughout our range.

  • Jeff

    There is a band of your wild cousins living in our lake with big caimans and boas but they seem to be OK – we are very close to Panama City, Panama and humans are their biggect threat, as usual.

  • […] already expressed my opinion on The Wild Life, not that it is relevant. What I think these people are trying to say is that Gari or would have […]

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>