Significance to humans

The first Portuguese explorers traveling through Brazil in the sixteenth century reported that they learned from the local indigenous people that capybara meat was consumed and considered beef or sometimes fish. In fact, in the llanos of Venezuela, people eat capybara meat during Lent, in place of fish, as a religious and cultural tradition. Throughout the Amazon basin, capybara is consumed by local people as a real meat, since people living along the rivers consume fish daily and sometimes appreciate a different kind of meat.

There is a growing interest in the management of capy-baras to commercially exploit their meat and skin (the leather is valuable). In some countries such as Venezuela and Brazil two options for exploitation were identified: management in natural areas and raising or farming in enclosures.

In wild populations of higher densities in good habitats, such as the llanos of Venezuela, it is possible to establish a harvest quota, based on the fact that part of the population would disappear due to disease and predation. Harvest quotas could be increased through the implementation of programs to control mortality caused by diseases. The predation in ranches is low and the capybara population can increase in number. The construction of ponds and the offer of food can also increase population levels for management and sustainable use.

There are some authorized farming structures to raise capybaras in Brazil. However, the final cost of the meat is still higher than the traditional beef.

Some health researchers, working with free ranging capybaras that reached the plazas in the city of Campinas, Brazil, by traveling through small creeks, discovered that the animals can pose a potential threat to humans. The ectoparasites they carry with them into the city, mainly ticks, could potentially transmit bacterial or viral diseases to humans.

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