Skip to Main Content
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance logo
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library logo

Capybaras (Hydrochoerus spp.) Fact Sheet: Population & Conservation Status

Population Status

Population Trends

  • Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
    • Stable (Reid 2016)
  • Hydrochoerus isthmius
    • Unknown (Delgado and Emmons 2016)

Status in all areas depends on management practices and habitat quality

  • Some areas allow controlled harvest and tolerate subsistence hunting
  • Elsewhere all hunting prohibited but poaching may be common
  • Protections enforced in other areas
  • Management for cattle may improve habitat for capybara
  • Populations considered a potential nuisance in east central Sao Paulo Brazil where they often live near humans
    • Blamed for crop damage
    • Associated with Brazilian Spotted Fever

Population densities

  • 195 individuals/sq. km (0.4 sq. mi) in southeastern Brazil wetlands
  • Between 10 and 200 individuals/ sq. km.(0.4 sq mi) in Venezuelan Llanos

Conservation Status


  • Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
  • Hydrochoerus isthmius


  • Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
    • Not listed (UNEP 2018)
  • Hydrochoerus isthmius
    • Not listed (UNEP 2018)

History of protections

  • 1953: Hunting regulated in Venezuela
  • 1967: Hunting prohibited in Brazil (Federal Law No. 5.197) but harvesting being considered to reduce population densities and impact on agriculture in some areas
  • 1968: Venezuela develops management plan using studies of capybara biology and ecology
  • 1980: Hunting prohibited in Columbia
  • 2000: Central Suriname Nature Reserve established on North Atlantic coast of South America; 1.592 million hectares ( 6,146 sq mi.)

Threats to Survival

  Status not threatened at present, but habitat loss and hunting/farming need controls and monitoring

  • Predator declines due to habitat loss may offer short-term benefit to capybara populations
  • Hunting often removes larger and older individuals from population (large males, pregnant females) and reduces group size
    • Long-term effect: decrease in body size of hunted population
    • Smaller groups mean fewer young survive per female
    • Hunting drives normally savanah-dwelling animals to forested habitats where resources are not optimal
  • Encroachment of human development
  • Clear-cutting/burning, farming
  • Human perception of their role in competing with cattle for food, as pests of sugarcane and rice mono cultures, or as carriers of diseases

Page Citations

Moreira & Macdonald  (1996)
Ojasti (1991)
Verdade & Ferraz (2006)

SDZWA Library Links