So, there we were on Monday, stuck in the longest traffic jam I have ever endured (240 km of cars going nowhere), and I look to my left toward the sluggish Pinheros River, and what do I see? It’s a capybara!

Apparently, there are many capyvaras (as they’re called in Brasil) along the river banks, and they live off of the aquatic plants along the river and all the flora planted along the roadsides. This one was happily munching the grass as thousands of cars crawled past it.

Capybaras are the largest extant rodents in the world, and are relatives to the guinea pig. This one was the size of a hefty pig. I’ve seen them in zoos before, but never in the wild. (Or semi-wild, since they live in Sao Paulo and, thus, must be termed city dwellers.)

According to my research, capybaras are excellent swimmers and can stay submerged up to five minutes. Given the state of the rivers here, especially the Tiete River shown below with its islands of trash floating its length through Sao Paulo, that might be the only way they can survive. The Pinheros River was sluggish, stagnant sewage. I don’t even want to think about what this capybara has to swim through to go elsewhere.