Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
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

IUCN

  • Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
  • Hydrochoerus isthmius

CITES

  • 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