Human Interest

Tropical birdie: Wildlife thrives on Rio’s olympic golf course amid pandemic

Rio de Janeiro, Jul 23 (efe-epa).- Caimans, foxes and capybaras share the fairways with golfers on the Olympic course in Rio de Janeiro and their numbers have increased during the Covid-19 pandemic given the greater absence of people.

While some are fearful of a chance encounter with some of Brazil’s wildlife, others enjoy sharing the course with the critters, sometimes even more so when their ball lands close to one of them.

Although commonplace on Brazil’s golf courses, players at the club in Rio de Janeiro who have continued to play despite the coronavirus crisis, swear the number of animals is rising.

Golf is one of the few sports that can continue amid the pandemic, given that it does not require large crowds and is played in open spaces.

Located in the west of Rio, this course, built in a natural reserve for the 2016 Olympic Games, measures more than a million square meters and is considered one of the world’s best.

Before its construction, the area was in decline and had even been used as a dump, but the building of the course, which saw thousands of native trees planted, revived the natural area and heralded a recovery in the local ecosystem.

As well as the caimans that swim in the main lake and bask on its shores, golfers often stumble across owls, woodpeckers, butterflies, monkeys and capybaras, the world’s largest rodent.

Crab-eating foxes can also be spotted from time to time on the course but perhaps the least-welcome visitors to the course are the snakes.

There are around 290 different species catalogued at the course and they roam free given that they “live in their own ecosystem,” Camilo Pinto de Souza, a biologist at the course, tells Efe.

While there are no attempts to contain the animals, players are asked not to feed them and there are signs warning of the presence of certain species in particular areas.

“There is a harmony between the wild animals and the players,” the biologist says.

“Players arrive early to train and that’s when the animals are usually present around the course, but there is space for everyone at the golf course.”

Golf is often considered a sport for wealthy people, given the high club fees and equipment required to play but the Olympic course in Rio de Janeiro is free.

It doubles up as a public space for those who simply want to come to see the wildlife.EFE-EPA

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