In choosing which female capybara should breed it is important to understand the long-term consequences of this decision. The future cohesion of the herd will depend on this decision which is why it is important to choose a capybara who exhibits submissive behaviour as submissive behaviour is essential for the unity of the herd.
Aoba understands the importance of submissive behaviour. This is why Hinase has accepted Aoba. Maple’s female offspring, Milk, Cream and Butter, do not exhibit the submissive behaviour needed to ensure the unity of the herd, which is why Hinase does not accept them and is aggressive towards them.
If the future of the Bio Park herd descends only from Zabon and Maple’s offspring there will be more aggression and less cohesion. It would be a mistake to choose a female capybara to mate on the basis of her malleability, including the ability of the chief capybara keeper to interfere in the bonding process. It is important to understand that the relationship between the capybaras in the herd is the most important herd dynamic to be considered when choosing a female to breed.
At every zoo in Europe Aoba would be the obvious choice to breed. She is a large, very healthy capybara in her prime. She is sweet natured and intelligent. Her mother, Momiji, has invested a great deal in Aoba and the future of her bloodline. Momiji was an outstanding mother.
Momiji was a much better mother than Maple and Zabon. Momiji always gave Aoba milk whenever she demanded and allowed her to suckle for twice the usual length of time; Aoba suckled for 8 months rather than the usual 4 months. Momiji would be an outstanding grandmother and it would be a tragedy for her as well as for Aoba and the Bio Park if Aoba was not allowed to breed.
The decision to mate Zabon for a second year in 2019 was very strange, some might even say cruel, given the suffering Zabon had experienced in 2018 after she gave birth. When Zabon gave birth in 2018 she lost a tremendous amount of weight and was literally skin and bones, she also lost a lot of hair and it seemed touch and go whether she would survive. Zabon also has a chronic foot problem which requires antibiotics to treat, but because she was pregnant she could not be given antibiotics and her foot became extremely swollen and painful. It was so painful that often she was having to hop on three legs. During the later stages of her pregnancy she had great difficulty jumping in and out of the pond when she needed to thermoregulate in the heat of August.
Zabon again became extremely thin after giving birth in 2019. She was often more interested in eating or sleeping than looking after her babies.
In the photos above, you can see how extremely thin Zabon became after giving birth in 2018. She suffered so much and became very weak; too weak to look after her babies.
I have just heard that Zabon died about two months after giving birth. This tragically proves my point that no keeper with an understanding of Capybara Behaviour and Animal Welfare would have chosen to breed Zabon for a second year.
In addition, although Zabon is a very gentle capybara she comes from a very aggressive family. Zabon’s mother, Aki, was so aggressive that she became herd leader at the young age of 3. Her siblings Goemon and Yuzu were also very aggressive.
Unfortunately, Zabon’s babies seen to have inherited the family’s aggressive nature. Ko and Madoka are extremely aggressive, Ko is the most aggressive yearling capybara I have ever encountered. Sasuke and Kikyo also seem very aggressive. The last thing the Biopark needs is more aggressive capybaras.
So choosing to mate Zabon for a second year in 2019, made absolutely no sense.
Maple and her female offspring are not popular with other herd members. Butter is a bit strange, which is probably why Hinase dislikes her, therefore Butter obviously should not breed.
This is some of the submissive behaviour which Aoba exhibits: Aoba nibbles Hinase’s ear and nuzzles her under the chin, both behaviours which Hinase finds very pleasurable. On one occasion Hinase had a very painful mouth wound after Maple bit her. Hinase found some relief in rubbing her morillo which she did many more times than usual each day until the wound healed. Aoba sensed this and went over to Hinase and rubbed Hinase’s morillo using her chin. Aoba is also very sensitive to Hinase’s moods and avoids upsetting her. As a result Hinase has accepted Aoba. I have these behaviours recorded on video (see above and below).
Butter seems oblivious to Hinase’s moods and often behaves in a slightly strange way. Butter can be very aggressive and is not popular with the herd which is why she has gravitated towards humans but this does not make her a good choice for breeding.
If any of Maple’s female offspring were to be mated and become pregnant this would anger Hinase. A heavily pregnant female who is chased by Hinase runs the danger of suffering a miscarriage. ( I believe Ryoko suffered a partial miscarriage when she was frightened by one of the keepers and ran flat out to the edge of the pond. Capybaras seek refuge from danger in water. After a minute or so Ryoko lay down and then experienced three violent spasms. I said to Marc that I thought Ryoko had suffered a miscarriage; she was within three weeks of giving birth at the time of this tragedy. Her pups had to be delivered by C-section. Ryoko became so weak following this procedure that she was attacked by other herd members and she has had to be permanently separated from the herd which is tragic.)
Milk is a much more aggressive capybara than Aoba. It is only her relatively junior place in the hierarchy which keeps her aggression in check.
Hinase particularly hates Butter and frequently chases her. I can understand Hinase’s behaviour as Butter may be slightly mad. Like horses who are not popular with their herd members, Butter and indeed Maple’s other female offspring, seek out human company. This may make them popular with some people but for the future good of the herd, and the dynamic of the herd, these are not the capybaras an informed zoo keeper would choose to breed to.
Aoba comes from the best bloodline at Nagasaki Bio Park. Her grandmother was Donguri, a natural leader who avoided aggression. Donguri was also very compassionate, visiting and giving support to any capybara who had been separated from the herd and was therefore very stressed. Her offspring, Yasuo and Yasuha, and Yamato, and her grandson Choco, inherited this wise, intelligent, compassionate and non-aggressive nature.
This bloodline: Donguri, her daughter Momiji and Momiji’s daughter Aoba are likely to provide the most desirable capybaras for the future of the herd. This bloodline also includes Choco, one of the most popular capybaras at the Bio Park who pioneered several new behaviours which captivated the visitors who came to see the capybaras, many of whom came specially to meet Choco. Momiji was a fantastic mother and daughter.
Momiji was a much better mother than Maple or Zabon. She was always watchful of her young pups and when Choco, Donut and Macaroni joined the main herd at six weeks of age, Momiji took them on a grand tour of the enclosure and the pond showing them the best places to jump out of the pond and to escape the visitors. Momiji always gave her pups milk when they demanded, no matter how greedy and demanding they were. Maple, by contrast, frequently sat on a bench high above her pups, to prevent them from being able to suckle, consequently Cookie and Butter were much smaller than Aoba even though they were a little older.
To repeat: It Would Be Very Misguided, and a tragedy for Nagasaki Bio Park, Aoba and Momiji If Aoba Was Not Allowed to Mate.