THE world's largest rodent, normally only found in South America, is on the loose near Marlow, with a search underway to find it.

The Capybara, a brown furred mammal, belongs to Lady McAlpine, she has confirmed to the Free Press.

It has escaped from her sanctuary for exotic animals at Fawley Hill estate, between Marlow and Henley.

A Free Press reader said he spotted the creature close to Hambleden lock on Wednesday and took these pictures.

Capybaras are the largest rodents on the planet, weighing from 35 to 66 kg and standing up to 0.6 metres at the shoulder, with a length of about 1.2 metres.

Colin Blacklock, from Flackwell Heath, who took the pictures, said he thought it was a beaver initially but it was as large as a medium sized dog. He said: "The animal was just sitting eating the grass. It was not disturbed by my presence. It did not appear to be wet but I understand that Capybaras love the water."

Lady McAlpine told the MFP: "We do think it is ours. We think he may try to find his way back when he misses his mate but the draw of the river is strong. However, our estate manager is heading down there with a net to try to collect him. He is pretty tame and will approach a human if he thinks there is food involved.

"They are harmless, friendly and escapologist. They have been with us for several years being surplus to requirement at a zoo where they bred too successfully."

Information passed on from the RSPCA's wildlife department states the animal's range extends throughout most of Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Columbia.

They are found only in areas where water is easily accessible like flooded grasslands, marsh edges and lowland forests.

It is the third exotic creature this year to have been spotted around the Marlow area. A Brazilian aardvark, or Coati, was also seen a few months ago and it transpired that this was likely to have been one of a pair which also escaped from Lady McAlpine's sanctuary.

The animal was found dead, having apparently been run over by a car. A wallaby was also seen and photographed by another reader, in April, in Fawley, but it was not confirmed where it had come from.

Anyone who sees the capybara is asked to call 07802805893.