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Par for the Course: 6 Animals That Roam Rio's Olympic Golf Links

Animals in Rio

Amazonian marmosets

(Image credit: Vladimir Wrangel | Shutterstock.com)

Olympic spectators expecting to see golfers vying for gold in Rio today (Aug. 11) might also see a few unexpected Brazilian natives, including capybaras, three-toed sloths and little alligator relatives known as caimans.The 72-hole Olympic golf course is already home to all three, and other animals live there as well, such as borrowing owls and boa constrictors, according to The National Post, a Canadian newspaper. Here's a look at six wild animals that have moved into the Olympic golf course, and what experts know about them.

Capybaras

Capybaras

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Capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) are the world's largest rodent, standing about 2 feet (60 centimeters) tall at the shoulder, according to the San Diego Zoo. Capybaras are related to cavies and guinea pigs, and like hippos, their eyes, ears and nostrils are all near the top of their head, meaning they can wallow in the water with the majority of their bodies hidden from view. Capybaras also have slightly webbed feet, and are usually spotted near or in ponds or marshes, including those on the Olympic golf course."They chew down on the grass at night," Mark Johnson, director of international agronomy for the PGA Tour, told The National Post. "There are about 30 [to] 40 of them inside the course perimeter, but they live here and we play golf here, we co-exist."

Three-toed sloths

Three-toed sloths

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The three-toed sloth Bradypus variegatus is one of the world's slowest mammals. It's so inactive that green algae grow on its shaggy coat, according to National Geographic. It uses its long claws to hang from the treetops, and its grip is so strong that even dead sloths have been known to remain suspended from a branch, National Geographic said.

Burrowing owls

Burrowing Owls

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Burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia) have also discovered the Olympic golf course, and have already burrowed their way into the grass bunkers, The National Post reported. The owls' holes are about 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter, which will likely give the golfers an extra challenge when they compete today (Aug. 11) on the course, the Post said.

Burrowing owls favor open, flat areas with short grass or bare soil, and are usually found on grasslands, prairies, farmland and airfields, according to Audubon. As their name suggests, they live in burrows. But unlike other owls, they're often active during the daytime.

Burrowing owls eat insects, such as grasshoppers and caterpillars; small mammals, including voles and squirrels; as well as snakes, frogs and lizards, Audubon said. They may also line their nests with the poop of other animals to lure insects and other prey toward them, Live Science reported in 2006.

Boa constrictors

Boa constrictors

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The boa constrictor (Boa constrictor), famous for its deadly grip, usually grows between 6.5 feet and 10 feet (2 and 3 meters) long, Live Science reported. However, its relatives, the anaconda (20 feet, or 6 m) and reticulated python (25 feet, or almost 8 m), are even longer.Boas are native to the Western Hemisphere, and can be found in North and South America, as well as the surrounding islands. Moreover, the snakes are mostly solitary, and usually eat small animals such as rats and squirrels, though they can also stretch their jaws to engulf larger prey, including pigs and deer.However, don't believe the myth that the Boa constrictor suffocates its prey to death. Rather, the snake uses its tight coils to stop its prey's blood flow, which leads to circulatory arrest, Live Science reported in 2015.

Caimans

Caimans

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Caimans are a type of alligator, but they're much smaller than a typical gator, reaching only about 5 feet (1.5 m) in length, according to The National Post.However, not all caimans are small. The yacare caiman Caiman yacare also lives in Brazil, and has teeth on its lower jaw that poke up past its upper jaw, earning it the nickname "piranha caiman," according to the St. Louis Zoo. This caiman can grow up to 10 feet (3 m) in length, the zoo reported. However, the yacare caiman doesn't typically eat large prey, instead catching aquatic snails, shellfish, crabs, fish and snakes, the zoo said.

Amazonian marmosets

Amazonian marmosets

(Image credit: Vladimir Wrangel | Shutterstock.com)

These cute little monkeys have also made their way onto the Olympic golf course, according to SF Gate. The genus, Mico, has 14 species of Amazonian marmoset within it, according to Encyclopedia.com.Mico is one of six living genuses within the New World monkey group. In all, there are 41 known New World monkey species that live in Central and South America, Encyclopedia.com reported.Marmosets tend to live in groups ranging from four to nine individuals, and they're usually active during the day, Encyclopedia.com said.

Laura Geggel
As an associate editor for Live Science, Laura Geggel covers general science, including the environment, archaeology and amazing animals. She has written for The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site covering autism research. Laura grew up in Seattle and studied English literature and psychology at Washington University in St. Louis before completing her graduate degree in science writing at NYU. When not writing, you'll find Laura playing Ultimate Frisbee.