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Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris

Capybara are the largest rodents in the world and resemble a giant guinea pig.

The capybara is a semi-aquatic mammal, found on Central and South American riverbanks, beside ponds and in marshes. When the capybara swims, its eyes, ears and nostrils are positioned just above the water to help with vision and breathing in the water. This unusual mammal can even dive underwater and stay there for up to five minutes.

These rodents live in family groups of 10 to 40. They are incredibly vocal animals and communicate using barks, whistles, huffs and purrs. If one animal feels threatened, the whole group barks until danger has passed. Adult capybara can grow up to 130 centimetres and weigh up to 65 kilograms.

Belfast Zoo has successfully bred several capybaras in recent years, many of which are now located in zoos across Europe.

On 28 October 2016 two capybara babies, Diego and Natalia, joined us. In April 2018, Capybara twins were born to mother, Ola and father Chester. We asked you to name the twins and they were named Tula and Cuzco, to highlight their South American heritage.

IUCN Status

The IUCN status of the Capybara is least concern.
  Fun fact Capybara can dive underwater for up to five minutes

Animal class


Conservation status

Capybara are currently not at risk of extinction. However, they are under threat from hunting for their meat and skin.


Forest, savanna wetlands in South America.


Capybara are common in the wild and their population is stable.


Herbivore – grass and aquatic plants but also eat fruit and tree bark.