In Argentina, giant rodents vie with the rich for real estate

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Buenos Aires (AFP)

Families of a giant rodent, a native of South America, invade a luxurious gated community in Argentina, highlighting the country’s controversial environmental and social policies.

Nordelta is a 1,600-hectare (3,950-acre) luxury private urban complex, built on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, in the wetlands of the Parana River, which is the natural habitat of capybaras.

Many Nordelta residents have complained that the capybara spoils well-kept lawns, bites pets and causes traffic accidents.

The capybara, also known as the carpincho or chiguire, is the largest rodent in the world, can reach 1.35 meters (53 inches) in length and reach 80 kilograms (176 lb) in weight.

“The Nordelta is an exceptionally rich wetland that could not be touched,” biologist Sebastian di Martino, conservation director at Rewilding Argentina, told AFP.

“Now that the damage has been done, the residents must reach a certain level of coexistence with the carpincios,” Di Martino said.

The Nordelta Hotel, built 20 years ago, has homes, offices, a shopping center, schools, a church, a synagogue and an artificial lake that is home to aquatic birds.

But as construction work began on the last remaining piece of natural land, many residents have noted the sudden “invasion” of capybaras.

“Carpinchos have always been here. We’ve always seen them from time to time. But three or four months ago (the builders) went to their last remaining citadel and a stampede began, ”Perla Puggi, a Nordelta resident and capybara activist, told AFP.

Nordelta and similar elite wetland developments have also sparked controversy in Argentina.

Along with devouring the natural habitat of capybaras, the large-scale development of wetlands means that the soil can no longer absorb heavy rains, which then flood poorer surrounding areas.

In politically polarized Argentina, the left has long criticized Nordelta as an example of elite exploitation, jokingly portraying the capybara as a working-class hero.

– Lack of predators –

Di Martino says the spread of capybaras is bad for the environment, but it’s also human’s fault.

Capybaras are the prey of jaguars, cougars, foxes, wild cats and wild dogs, but all of these animals are now almost extinct in Argentina.

Aerial view of luxury gated communities built on wetlands from the Parana River in Argentina
Aerial view of luxury gated communities built on wetlands from the Parana River in Argentina MAGALI CERVANTES AFP

“This is happening all over the country, in urbanized and non-urbanized areas. It is caused by the change and degradation of ecosystems. We have exterminated a ton of species that were their natural predators, ”Di Martino told AFP.

“The carpincio needs a predator to reduce its population and also to scare it,” said Di Martino.

“When there is a herbivore without the threat of a predator, it does not hide and can feed all day, thereby destroying vegetation that captures less carbon and contributes to climate change.”

In the wild, capybaras live for eight to 10 years and give birth to up to six cubs once a year.

Not everyone at Nordelta considers them a hindrance. In fact, they have become the main attraction of the residential complex.

Drivers slow down to take pictures, while children look for them at nightfall to take selfies.

Some Nordelta residents want to create a nature reserve for capybaras.

“We have to learn to live next to them, they are not aggressive animals,” said Puggy.

“A reserve of 20 to 30 hectares is enough to preserve diversity. They are defenseless animals, we corner them, we take their habitat, and now we are complaining because they are invading. “

Di Martino, however, says the nature reserve won’t change anything.

“It’s difficult, you need to keep them away from children and pets. And then you have to find a way to reduce the population, perhaps by moving them to other places. “

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