The Capybara’s Viral Moment


It’s hard to imagine a more unlikely internet hero than the capybara, but that’s exactly who has been championing the internet for the past several years.

This giant rodent, a relative of the domesticated guinea pig, has been storming the internet since its first viral video in 2007, and there’s no sign of it slowing down. The capybara continues to be one of the most popular animals on the web.

Escape From the High Park Zoo

You can visit a capybara at the zoo unless, of course, they have escaped. That’s exactly what happened with two capybaras in 2016 at the Toronto High Park Zoo. The capybaras evaded recapture for weeks as the rest of the world cheered them on.

While the two rebellious rodents slipped past zookeepers and animal control specialists, they achieved internet fame and became known as Bonnie and Clyde. Thankfully, they didn’t meet an untimely demise like their namesakes, and they were returned safely to their enclosure at the zoo.

Planet Earth II: Shocked Capybara

It would be impossible to describe how relatable the capybara is without talking about the Shocked Capybara video from 2017, which got millions of views.

Capybaras are semi-aquatic creatures that graze near rivers and marshes. They are about the size of a large dog and will escape into the water if large predators get too close. That’s how a capybara came to be videoed after seeing a jaguar killing a caiman.

The dramatic video aired on Planet Earth II, and as the jaguar viciously attacked the caiman, the video pans over to a nearby capybara, who watches, aghast. The appalled look of the capybara quickly achieved internet meme fame. As BBC Earth tweeted, “We are all shocked capybara.”

Ok, I Pull Up

In hindsight, it was inevitable that the capybara would become a hip-hop star. It happened when Don Tolliver’s song “After Party” was released in 2020 and started trending as a TikTok dance challenge.

When YouTube user EGA NATION paired a 2014 video of a capybara riding shotgun with the After Party soundtrack, the internet went crazy for capybaras again. Hundreds of capybara videos, cartoons, and memes were made using the “Ok, I Pull Up” theme.

The Lovable Capybara Invades a Suburb

There’s a lot to love about capybaras. One of their most endearing qualities is how chill they are. There are several videos of them with birds and other animals riding around on their backs, earning them nicknames such as “nature’s ottoman” and “the living chair.” 

Capybaras are native to South America. When a large group of them invaded a wealthy suburb in Argentina, this lovable animal became a symbol of class warfare, endearing them to the masses even more. 

Nordelta is an upper-class enclave, Argentina’s most well-known gated community. It is built along the waterways and wetlands of the Paraná River, which is the capybara’s natural habitat. In 2021, a large group of capybaras took back their homes and caused mayhem in Nordelta. They caused traffic accidents, bit people’s pets, and damaged well-manicured landscapes.

The wealthy inhabitants of Nordelta complained loudly and threatened to kill the capybaras, but blowback was fierce in defense of the world’s largest rodent. There have been strong calls to build a nature reserve for them, but unfortunately, capybaras no longer have any natural predators because they’re all extinct in Argentina. Without the control of predators, a capybara population can spiral out of control.

One World

Wild animals’ habitats are shrinking due to human encroachment. Delicate ecosystems are being disrupted worldwide as people take over large areas without making room for native species.

As the Nordelta invasion of capybaras has shown, humans need to learn how to coexist with animals. Hopefully, the capybara’s internet fame can help raise awareness about endangered animals and their habitats.


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