The Capybaras of Parque Barigui, Curitiba

A group of capybaras in Parque Barigui, Curitiba

photography by: Omri Westmark

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Native to South America, capybara is by far the largest rodent on Earth, with some adults weighing as much as a human being. While spotting capybaras often entails a journey into the heart of the Amazon Forest, one park in Curitiba offers a close encounter with these adorable animals without the hassle of ever leaving the city.

Widespread throughout all of South America with the exception of Chile, capybaras are the world’s largest rodents, with a maximum body mass of a whopping 90 kilograms. Those oversized cavies typically live in groups of up to 40 individuals, consisting of a single dominant male, females, subordinate males as well as cubs. Due to their semi-aquatic nature, they can be found next to bodies of water, either in a dense rainforest or a grassland.


Nature lovers who wish to catch a glimpse of these charming critters often have to go to great lengths in order to spot them, literally so. That is, unless you are talking about Parque Barigui in the Brazilian city of Curitiba. Spanning across an area of 140 hectares, the expansive park was created in 1972 on the western outskirts of the downtown area. As a measure to mitigate the frequent seasonal flooding, the Barigui River which crosses the park was dammed, subsequently forming a large water reservoir.


With an incessant supply of water and plants, Parque Barigui quickly became an ideal habitat for dozens of species, including great egrets, lapwings, opossums, crested caracaras and of course, our protagonists, the capybaras. Roaming freely throughout the verdant lawns, the massive rodents can be spotted all over the park, yet tend to congregate next to the banquet hall building. Thanks to their calm temperament and lack of fear of humans, it’s incredibly easy to get into close proximity with the animals as they feast on the abundant grass.