The golf tournament at the Rio Olympics starts next Thursday. This is the first time golf has been at the Olympics since 1904, but stars like Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, and Dustin Johnson will not be there. However, a bunch of capybaras, sloths, and other critters (like mini crocodiles) will.
The course is located in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood in western Rio, a newer neighborhood where a bunch of famous Brazilians live. This is a perfectly sensible place to put a golf course, on account of the fact that it’s near the sort of people who can afford to play. But because it’s sandwiched between two of the largest lakes in Rio, it’s also a sensible place for a bunch of critters to hang out. Specifically, about 40 capybaras who live on the course.
Capybaras, like the ones that British archer Naomi Folkard saw the other day, are the largest rodents in the world and can grow up to 150 pounds. The National Post spoke to the PGA Tour’s director of international agronomy, who said that coexisting with the big-ass rodents was going to be important:
“They chew down on the grass at night,” says Mark Johnson, director of international agronomy for the PGA Tour, “There are about 30-40 of them inside the course perimeter, but they live here and we play golf here, we co-exist.”
There are also sloths, caimans, boa constrictors, and tiny monkeys. The Golf Channel recently took a look at some of the animals out and about on the course:
Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo reported that the IOC would have five handlers on site to monitor and potentially move the caimans during play if they got too close to anyone. Additionally, the local burrowing owl population is unusually high, and there’s some sort of bird aphrodisiac in the air:
“I am not a biologist by any means but these owls routinely have excessive amounts of babies,” Johnson says. “There is something they like here.”
Unlike the bacteria clogging up Guanabara Bay, these organisms are good.