Rio Olympics golf course looking more like a zoo ahead of Summer Games

As many as 40 capybaras, the world's largest rodents, live on the course hosting the Olympic Golf tournament.
As many as 40 capybaras, the world's largest rodents, live on the course hosting the Olympic Golf tournament.

The lead-up to the golf tournament at the Rio Olympics, an event we haven't seen in the Games in more than 100 years, has been anything but exciting. And they haven't put a ball on a tee yet.

A tournament that many had pegged as the season's fifth major has been dealt one blow after another, with four of the top five golfers in the world pulling out of the highly anticipated event. Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, ranked one through four in the world golf rankings respectively, had bailed on the tournament long before the event tees off next Thursday.

Much has been said of the wet blanket that had been tossed on the tournament, but a new spotlight has been cast on those who will be on the course in Rio. And we're not talking about the golfers.

The course, located in western Rio's Barra da Tijuca neighbourhood, just happens to sit in between two very large lakes. And with the lakes often comes the wildlife. Sloths, boa constrictors, monkeys, caimans (mini crocodiles about five feet in length) and burowing owls, to be specific.

A capybara eats a plant at the zoo in Asuncion, Paraguay. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Jorge Saenz
A capybara eats a plant at the zoo in Asuncion, Paraguay. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Jorge Saenz

Oh, almost forgot about the family of capybaras, which reportedly lives on the golf course as well. Capybaras are the largest rodents in the world; they can weigh up to 150 lbs and can reach heights of 60 cemtimetres.

“They chew down on the grass at night,” says Mark Johnson, director of international agronomy for the PGA Tour in an interview with the National Post. “There are about 30-40 of them inside the course perimeter, but they live here and we play golf here, we co-exist.”

The good folks at The Golf Channel recently gave us a sneak peek at the Rio Olympic zoo, er, golf course.

But fear not, Henrik Stenson and company. The IOC is preparing to deploy five "handlers" to monitor (and potentially move) the caimans that venture a little too close to the action, according to the Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo.

As for the other animals on the course, the threat level doesn't appear to be very high. Especially with the burrowing owls, which appear to be spreading far too much love to be considered a threat.

“I am not a biologist by any means but these owls routinely have excessive amounts of babies,” Johnson shared with the Post. “There is something they like here.”

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