Turns out these giant rat relatives do give a crap about your fancy, shmancy suburban enclave.
Capybaras have invaded an affluent gated community — chewing up flower beds, bullying beloved pets and pooping all over manicured lawns, much to the chagrin of wealthy residents of the Buenos Aires suburb. However, environmentalists say the animals actually once roamed free on the land — so they are just taking back what’s theirs.
Considered the world’s largest rodents, capybaras are indeed native to the upscale neighborhood of Nordelta in Argentina, as well as much of South America at large. But when developers cleared out 3,000 acres of critical wetlands on the banks of the Parana River to create this community of multi-million-dollar homes in the late 1990s, the capybara population all but vanished from their original habitat.
However, La Nacion has reported that the capyble creatures, otherwise known as carpinchos in the region, are back with a vengeance to reclaim their homeland — to the detriment of lush landscaping throughout Nordelta.
Nordelta spokesperson Marcelo Canton said in a statement to Reuters that the displaced critters are known to devour gardens, terrorize pet dogs and defecate with wild abandon, though there is “no risk to humans.”
Many of the 40,000 residents total have claimed the capybaras are wreaking havoc around their homes, using their flower beds as bathrooms and allegedly terrifying pet dogs — so they need to go, according to Nordelta homeowners, despite the fact that the large which can reach up to about four feet long and weight 175 pounds, rodents are known for their docile demeanor.
“It’s the other way round: Nordelta invaded the ecosystem of the carpinchos,” said Enrique Viale, Argentine environmental lawyer and advocate, in a statement to The Guardian.
“Wealthy real-estate developers with government backing have to destroy nature in order to sell clients the dream of living in the wild,” he added, “because the people who buy those homes want nature, but without the mosquitoes, snakes or carpinchos.”
Indeed, it was hubris that got Nordelta residents in the end. When the capybaras left, so to went their natural predators, such as jaguars. But big cats aren’t as amenable to cohabitating with humans as the affable rodent, so when the capybara crept back into the region, they had no one and nothing there to stop them — or curb their now booming re-population.
The capybaras have enjoyed a 17% uptick in their Nordelta population during the past year — up to 400 individuals, currently. But experts say that count could balloon to close 3,000, according to a LiveScience report, as mature female capybaras may spawn as many as 15 pups per year.
Residents are pushing for officials to create more capybara deterrents, such as reinforced fences. Others have vowed to take matters into their own hands by hunting the animals, though no capybara homicides have yet been reported, according to The Guardian.
Said Nordelta’s Canton of his community’s demands: “This has provoked anger from some neighbors who are demanding quick and urgent measures to control the capybaras. That is not a solution for today.”
Environmentalists were also quick to come to the capybara’s defense, organizing protests within Nordelta in order to urge government protections for the animal. It’s been said that Argentina’s underprivileged human populations regard the capybara as a mascot for a mutual cause against the city’s wealthiest residents, who have not only displace animals but disadvantaged humans, too.
As Viale explained in The Guardian: “As always, it is the poor who end [up] paying the price.”
As environmentalists sound the alarm over human destruction of precious wetlands and its wild inhabitants, some experts and officials agree that the capybara influx may be the new normal for Nordelta — until they find more humane means of population control
Said Nordelta’s spokesperson, “We want the capybaras to keep living here. We live well with them, we like them but we don’t think there is enough space for them. So we need to stop an increase in the population.”