If You Want a Capybara to Sit in Your Lap Go to Nagasaki Bio Park. あなたは好きですか?愛情カピバラ?あなたの上に座って?長崎バイオパークに行きます

Having a capybara come over to you and sit affectionately in your lap is the most wonderful experience. Many of the capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park will sit on the laps of visitors these days.

Choco on Marc's lap

Choco

 

This is the video: If You Want a Capybara To Sit in Your Lap Go to Nagasaki Bio Park カピバラの愛情あなたの上に座って

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdNE6omkqvM

                                                                                         

Choco in particular loves sitting on visitors’ laps. One of the reasons for this is protection. The senior capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park do not like Choco, particularly Maple and Hinase. Maple will chase him right across the enclosure but since Choco can out run Maple, Choco is never in danger of being attacked unless he is cornered. The reason the senior capybaras don’t like Choco is partly because he is a neutered male and he doesn’t smell right because of his neutering. The female capybaras adore full-blooded males!

 

 

30% Choco sleeping on Lady's lap

Choco sleeping on a lady’s lap. Choco spent over an hour on her lap and she wasn’t going to leave the capybara enclosure while Choco wanted to sit on her lap. Her husband looked increasingly bored!

 

Also Choco is low in the hierarchy but he wants everything the senior capybaras have and because he is quite fearless he is not submissive. If Choco wants something he goes for it.  He wants to enjoy the Onsen even when the senior capybaras are there whereas most of the junior capybaras wait until the senior capybaras have left or go into the Onsen before they arrive. To avoid being attacked Choco has taken to jumping up into the trough through which the water flows to the Onsen. This allows him to enjoy the benefits of the Onsen without usually attracting the attention of Hinase and Maple.

 

40% WN Choco in trough whole Onsen view

You can see Choco in the water trough (below the arrow on the left of the photo) above the main Onsen Bath. Maple is sprawled out under the 2 showers. 4 other capybaras are enjoying the Onsen Bath

 

25% Choco in trough

Choco in Water Channel Trough

 

Ryoko came and sat on Marc’s lap, not looking for food, but just to make friends. I believe it was because she had seen us there almost every day for 6 months, which is very unusual for visitors! She decided it might be useful to have us as friends. She is a very clever capybara and the only young capybara who has been completely accepted by the senior capybaras. I would love to know why; what it is about her behaviour and personality that has made her accepted by these senior capybaras.

 

30% 2 Ryoko sitting on Marc's lap

Ryoko

 

Aoba will sit on visitors’ laps but she is usually hoping to be fed.

30% WN JPEG Aoba and Masakazu SnapShot(5)

Aoba

 

Gin jumped into my lap the first day we visited the Bio Park.  In cold weather Hinase will sometimes sit on visitors’ laps for the extra warmth.

 

40% Choco on Lady's lap

Choco

 

Maple likes humans. She knows how to attract people and everyone seems to feed her even though she doesn’t need any extra food, being the chubbiest capybara I have ever seen. She will jump up beside you and depending on her mood she will wait very patiently to be fed or petted, or if she is hungry she will nibble you until you feed her.

 

22% superior looking Choco on Lady's lap

Choco Looking Very Pleased with Himself

The Capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park 長崎バイオパークのカピバラ

すべての動物は、個々のです。ちょうど人間のように。喜びははるかに大きいです。カピバラの名前を知っています。カピバラのキャラクターと個性を知っています。あなたははるかにカピバラをお楽しみいただけます。あなたは彼の名前を知らない場合はカピバラを侮辱です。彼の性格。カピバラを認識してください。彼らはこれを値します。

 

You will probably fall in love with the capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park. They are so affectionate and friendly and patient. Since they are living as a herd, bonding with their own species, they do not suffer the stress that many pet capybaras suffer.

As everybody who loves animals knows, your relationship and pleasure in the company of an animal is much greater if you know who the animal is and what it’s personality and character are like. Every animal is an individual, with a different personality, just as every human is. I find it insulting to animals not to identify them whenever possible. Obviously viewing animals in the wild it is unlikely you will know anything about them but every animal in a captive situation deserves to be recognised.

すべての動物は、個々のです。ちょうど人間のように。喜びははるかに大きいです。カピバラだ

Donguri  どんぐり

Donguri Chan, one of the world's great leaders! Leader of the herd at Nagasaki Bio Park. どんぐりチャン。世界の偉大な指導者の一人。長崎バイオパークの群れリーダー

Donguri Chan, one of the world’s great leaders! Leader of the herd at Nagasaki Bio Park. どんぐりチャン。世界の偉大な指導者の一人。長崎バイオパークの群れリーダー

 

Donguri is the leader of the herd at Nagasaki Bio Park. What first drew me to Donguri was her gentle, non-aggressive nature. This was in 2012 and at the time she was not part of the hierarchy because she didn’t like to fight. Her sister Aki was number one in the hierarchy and sensing that the larger Donguri was her chief rival she went out of her way to intimidate Donguri and make her life very difficult. After Aki’s tragic death in October 2012 Donguri automatically assumed the mantle of leadership that she so rightly deserved. She is a very wise and compassionate capybara and her behaviour is always fascinating to watch.

She is a natural leader, always alert to the suffering of other capybaras in her herd. Every day, several times a day, she visits the capybaras who are in separate enclosures. Capybaras are amongst the most gregarious animals and to be alone in an enclosure can be stressful and frustrating. Donguri knows this and does her best to mitigate their unhappiness. My impression is that she does not have a high opinion of humans. She knows they control her life and she knows that if she was in control the lives of the capybaras would be much better. There would be a large area of grass for them to graze on all day and the male capybara, Toku, would be part of the herd for all the females to enjoy!

Donguri keeps a watch on everything that happens in the capybara enclosure including the activities of the humans. She has a very penetrating gaze and a natural aura of power. She is the 5th oldest capybara in Japan at 11 years old.

Donguri is so gentle when I feed her. She brushes her soft lips across my hand as she gathers up the pellet. I think she senses how pleasurable this is for me. She is very proud and won’t come over to beg for pellets. She waits for me to come to her. Sometimes I jangle the pellet container, when I know she is hungry. But she still won’t come over as if to show me what a proud and noble capybara she is. If I want to feed her I should go to her, she says. Although on other occasions she fixes me with her beautiful and very penetrating gaze, and walks towards me singing.

Capybaras sniff each other’s bottoms to gather information. What they smell can tell them many things about the capybara such as her health and reproductive status, including whether she is in estrus. Donguri was always smelling the bottoms of other capybaras in her herd. She was always a very interested and curious Capybara. Every time a capybara passed in front of her Donguri would sniff that capybaras bottom. She showed much more interest in the other capybaras and sniffed many more bottoms than the other capybaras in the herd. Just one of the many way she was such a good leader, keeping track of the health and well-being of her herd

For more about Donguri, I have written several blogs including this one:

 Donguri, The Perfect Capybara. どんぐり、パーフェクトカピバラ

https://capybaraworld.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/donguri-the-perfect-capybara-%e3%81%a9%e3%82%93%e3%81%90%e3%82%8a%e3%80%81%e3%83%91%e3%83%bc%e3%83%95%e3%82%a7%e3%82%af%e3%83%88%e3%82%ab%e3%83%94%e3%83%90%e3%83%a9%e3%80%82/

I am heartbroken.  Donguri died peacefully in the early morning of June 17, 2016. She remained as leader of the Bio Park herd right up to the end of her life. I will never forget her. I learned so much about capybaras and animal behaviour from her. She was a truly exceptional capybara.

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Hinase

Hinase

Hinase is joint number two in the Bio Park hierarchy with Maple. She loves being in the company of the male capybaras, a trait she has passed on to her daughters Ryoko, Keiko and Sumere. As she is at the top of the hierarchy she gets plenty to eat at breakfast time and so does not bother much with the bamboo and pellets offered by the visitors (there is always hay available for the capybaras to eat but they prefer bamboo and pellets), and like Donguri she is usually too proud to beg. Because of this she often sits away from the main petting area where she will not be disturbed by humans. My impression is that like Donguri she does not hold humans in high regard. However she does love to be petted and is probably the most responsive capybara in the herd. I have put her at number two because she is more involved in community actions and affairs than Maple.

Along with Donguri she will often bark or make the strange gruff call to Toku that signifies time for action by the whole herd. She spends quite a large portion of her day by Toku’s enclosure, singing to him, rubbing her morillo on the entrance gate to his enclosure, and communicating with him using chemical messages by rubbing her anal scent glands or depositing faeces and urine.

After Donguri, she is one of my favourite capybaras. Donguri was her grandmother and the late Fujiko was her mother. Her father was Takeshi.

Maple

Maple

Maple is pregnant and is due to give birth any day now. She has a natural affinity with people and will sit calmly for a very long time patiently hoping to be fed while people pet her or take endless photos. She is extremely patient! Where other capybaras will move away when they have had enough petting, Maple will quietly sit beside you. She instinctively knows how to attract people to feed her and where to sit to ensure she gets the most food of all the capybaras. Consequently she is the fattest capybara I have ever met. Unlike Hinase and Donguri she seems to like people and they are drawn to her, even though it must be obvious that she doesn’t need any extra food!

It is her aggressive nature that has put her near the top of the hierarchy. She is the most aggressive of the capybaras towards other capybaras, and I was afraid she would challenge Donguri for leadership of the herd, but fortunately this has not happened. She hates Choco and regularly chases him away from the petting and feeding areas and into the pond.

Momiji

Momiji and her daughter, little baby Aoba, sleeping together heads touching. Aoba often sleeps snuggled up with mummy Momiji or even on top of her soft warm body.

Momiji and her daughter, little baby Aoba, sleeping together heads touching. Aoba often sleeps snuggled up with mummy Momiji or even on top of her soft warm body.

I have a soft spot for Momiji, partly because she is such a fantastic mother. All her babies are very demanding but I have never seen her deny them milk, unlike Maple who was always more interested in being fed than feeding her babies, Cookie and Butter. Aoba was an exceptionally demanding baby and sometimes Momiji would throw up her head in exasperation and bark at Aoba’s endless demands for milk. Unlike Maple who liked to nurse her babies next to the pellet dispenser knowing that visitors would find this activity very cute and buy her extra pellets, Momiji would always lead Aoba off to a quiet corner of the enclosure away from the humans.

Momiji is a very intense capybara who does everything to the best of her ability. She is a wonderful lover and daughter. Donguri is her mother and when Donguri was going through some health problems and when she suffered a very painful leg injury Momiji would sit close to her. She was the only capybara who stayed with Donguri in the pond where Donguri could rest her very painful leg. She puts the same intensity of effort into being fed by the visitors which can sometimes slightly alarm them – poor Momiji! She is probably the fittest of the capybaras because of her restless nature.

Zabon

17% crop WN Zabon 4th August 2015 058

Zabon is a favourite with the keepers. She is one of the least aggressive capybaras and rather than fight for food she eats the hay that is available all day but which is spurned by all but the hungriest capybaras. She has been watching Choco stealing food and has learnt that this is a good strategy for getting extra bamboo! She is a large capybara, with a long body, and is recognisable by her long nose, the longest of the capybaras in the herd. Her eyes are very similar to Maple. She likes people and would often come and sit next to me. Her mother was Aki and her father was the great Yasushi.

Gin

16% WN crop Gin the troublemaker 29th Augusst 2015 036

Gin is a troublemaker! She loves to bite everything including her sister, the cables powering the electric wheelchairs, everything and anything. She can on occasion be very aggressive, I have even seen her challenge Maple who is much bigger than her when they were vying for the attention of Goemon, a male capybara who is Zabon’s brother. She loves to be petted as did her sister Kin. She attacked her sister Kin so seriously that Kin had to be removed from the herd. However this worked out very well for Kin who has now moved to a sister zoo, Mongol Village, to be with Kenta, a male capybara, where they hope to start a family.  Gin means silver in Japanese, and Kin means gold.

I can always recognise Gin by the look in her eye! Her mother was Fujiko and her father was Yasushi.

Choco

Choco Stealing Bamboo

Choco Stealing Bamboo

Choco is a character and everyone loves him. Fed up with being at the bottom of the hierarchy at feeding time he cleverly came up with an alternative strategy. At breakfast time he went to Monkey Island, climbed inside the monkey house and ate the monkey’s food until he grew too large to fit through the door! People often wonder why the monkeys tolerated this. Having watched the capuchin monkeys for hours I believe that they most enjoy harassing those capybaras who get most upset. Just like humans, if the capybaras don’t get upset there’s no point in harassing them. Choco is used to being chased and bitten by other capybaras but he doesn’t let that stop him, and I suspect he was the same with the capuchin monkeys and just calmly ignored their attempts to harass him. The end result is that most of the time they just watch him eat their food and only very occasionally does he get chased off the island. However, when Ryoko and Aoba tried to go into the monkey house they were instantly chased away. The price Choco has paid for spending so much time on Monkey Island is that he has become a partial outsider in the herd which results in him suffering many more attacks by the senior capybaras in the hierarchy.

Choco quite blatantly steals bamboo from under the noses of the keepers. He often knocks over the bowl of duck and swan pellets that sits on top of the bamboo stall, thereby scattering the pellets all over the ground for him and other capybaras to eat. When the keepers go over to feed the swan in the pond Choco will go over and sit beside them. He gently bites them if they neglect to give him his fair share of pellets! He is easily identifiable by the second toe from the outside of his left front foot which is slightly split in two.

Maple hates him and will chase him to the furthest reaches of the enclosure and into the pond. On one occasion Maple chased him away from the feeding and petting area and right round to the far side of the pond where Choco jumped into the pond, and swam back to the main feeding area and jumped out. Maple stood on the edge of the pond at the far extremity of the enclosure looking for him, completely unaware that he was back in exactly the place she had chased him away from. Even Donguri doesn’t particularly like him. You can see all the scars in his coat from being bitten by other capybaras but he doesn’t allow the other capybaras to intimidate him, so he has not had to be separated from the herd and put in another enclosure for his own protection as happened to Kin and Yuzu.

He often sits on a bench, a strategy Maple also adopts, to attract the attention of visitors with food. He will then sit in their laps which some visitors love and others find scary. Choco knows that if he is sitting on a human’s lap no other capybara will attack him and he will have the bamboo all to himself. Choco has inherited his father, Toku’s, intelligence.

Clever Capybara Is Almost Successful 賢いカピバラ。ほぼ成功した https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=to739UXsc54


Choco in the monkey house: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erQ2wFPZDyU&list=UU6vvD9LkAvhQzItm1kCtCfg

Doughnut

25% Doughnut sleeping on Choco. Momiji's 2 baby brothers.

Doughnut sleeping on Choco. Momiji’s 2 baby brothers.
ドーナツはチョコで寝。もみじの2赤ちゃん兄弟

Doughnut is Choco’s brother, Momiji is their mother. Choco and Doughnut are both neutered males and they are the only male capybaras amongst the herd in the main enclosure. Doughnut was a more anxious baby than Choco and often followed Momiji around, calling plaintively for her if he lost sight of her. Perhaps because of this he has never adopted Choco’s clever strategies for getting more food and is noticeably smaller than Choco. However now that he is 2 years old he is bigger than the younger capybaras and will chase them away from his food. Of all the capybaras he is the one who most often tries to escape from the enclosure.

When the Bio Park opened one morning the keepers noticed that the gate had been opened and three capybaras were missing. One of the capybaras had made his way down to the entrance gate a 20 minute walk away. I am certain that Doughnut was one of the escapees and I can’t help feeling it was Choco who opened the gate to allow them to escape.   His and Choco’s father, Toku, worked out how to open the gate to his enclosure.

Ryoko

13% WN Ryoku 12th September 2015 189

Ryoko is the largest of Hinase’s three female babies and was the most aggressive as a baby ensuring she got more to eat which is why she is the largest of the three. However these days she does not seem to be particularly aggressive. She, Sumere and Keiko spend a lot of time beside Goemon’s enclosure calling to him, rubbing their morillos and sending chemical messages. Like her mother Hinase, Ryoko also loves to be petted.

Keiko

30% WN windy day crop Keiko absolutely brilliant 30th September 2015 091

Keiko is now the most aggressive of the three sisters and has given Aoba some deep bites even though Aoba is larger. She is the smallest of the three sisters perhaps because she expends so much energy fighting and communicating with Goemon rather than eating. Her coat is a more reddish colour than her other two sisters, something she has inherited from her father Toku whose coat is noticeably reddish.

Sumere

30% WN 20% Sumere 20th August 2015 068

Sumere, like her sisters, spends a lot of time trying to attract Goemon’s attention. She has more black about her face than Ryoko and Keiko.

Aoba

30% WN JPEG Aoba and Masakazu SnapShot(5)

Aoba is an interesting capybara.  She also has inherited Toku’s intelligence and as a rather spoilt “only child” she is very confident and pushy, in the nicest possible way of course. Everyone expected her to become a rather aggressive capybara, but she is not aggressive towards other capybaras. Most capybaras are weaned at about 4 months of age but Aoba kept on drinking Momiji’s milk until she was 8 months old! Thanks to all the milk Momiji gave her she has become a larger capybara than Keiko and Sumere who are 4 months older than her.

She understands the importance of networking and tries to be friends with the capybaras at the top of the hierarchy. She spends a lot of time playing with Donguri in the pond and she uses this relationship to share Donguri’s food trough which ensures that she doesn’t get chased away by other senior capybaras. Donguri is very tolerant. Curiously, Maple is not usually friendly on land and if Aoba comes over to sit beside her Maple will usually chase her away and even give her a gentle bite if she doesn’t get the message. However, towards the end of the summer I noticed Aoba and Maple playing happily together in the pond, so her strategy appears to be working. I have never seen her with Hinase. Last year when Aoba was a baby she decided that I was sufficiently high ranking that she should ingratiate herself with me. When I was petting Donguri she would come over and nuzzle me which was not at all to Donguri’s liking, so Donguri would roll over on top of Aoba forcing her to move away!

Since she is still a low ranking capybara she relies on visitors to feed her and pursues them very aggressively, biting their clothes if she doesn’t feel she is getting the bamboo she deserves. She, like Choco, often sits on a bench and climbs into visitors laps for the protection which humans offer and to ensure that she gets all the bamboo on offer.

She often visits Goemon and Toku although not as frequently as Hinase’s three daughters. Her father is Toku and she has inherited his eyes and his reddish coat, and also his intelligence. Some people think she will be a future number one in the hierarchy, although at present she does not seem to have the compassionate, community minded nature that Donguri has.

Butter

12% WN Butter Brilliant 12 October 2015 076 (1)

Butter is a favourite of mine. She would often come and sit beside me, partly for the protection I afforded.  She is not at all aggressive. Being at the bottom of the hierarchy she is frequently attacked by the other capybaras when she competes for food. So rather than beg for food from the visitors she spends a lot of time on the islands grazing on whatever green vegetation she can find and eating hay. She loves to be petted. Neither she nor Cookie, her sister, have shown much interest in male capybaras even though they are slightly older than Aoba.

Cookie

25% of 25% WN crop Cookie 29th Augusst 2015 022

Cookie is probably the cutest capybara. She has had problems with her teeth and often has to be hand fed by the keepers to ensure she gets enough to eat. Because of this she spends a lot of time hanging around the keepers’ bamboo stall waiting for titbits and being petted. She loves to be petted. She is feistier than her sister Butter and despite being the smallest capybara in the herd she is very clever at stealing bamboo from much bigger, more senior capybaras. She runs off with it but the problem is she can’t eat it while she is running. She has inherited Maple and Yasushi’s (her grandfather) short nose which makes her look especially cute. She is Butter’s sister, but smaller than Butter, and Maple is her mother. Toku is their father.

Toku

40% WN Toku

Toku is the Boss Capy as the breeding male is called. He lives in a separate enclosure in order to control the breeding programme. He is highly intelligent and worked out how to open the gate to his enclosure. He is a handsome and playful capybara and every day the herd of female capybaras come to visit him singing loudly. He often sings back to them. Life is very frustrating for him as you can imagine. Sometimes he expresses this frustration with loud barks. Then he will jump up and run around the enclosure several times. Toku gets much more attention from the females when Goemon is away probably because Goemon’s enclosure is closer to the area where the female capybaras hang out. Goemon was born into the Biopark herd so he is too closely related to be mated with the Bio Park females. I therefore find it interesting that the female capybaras seem so intent on mating with him. I would have expected that they would have sensed that they were too closely related to mate.

Goemon and Io

Goemon Has a Magnificent Huge, Glossy Morillo

Goemon Has a Magnificent Huge, Glossy Morillo

Goemon and Io are both un–neutered males who were born at Nagasaki Bio Park. Goemon is Zabon’s brother. Aki, Donguri sister, was their mother and Yasushi was their father. Io, whose mother is Donguri, usually lives in an enclosure at the top of the hill away from the main petting area. Here he is safe from Goemon’s attacks. Goemon lives in an enclosure next to the main enclosure and attracts a lot of attention from the females. When there are no females hanging around his enclosure he acts like a typical male and starts showing off. He barks loudly several times and makes several long, gruff calls of frustration. Then he prances about squeezing his anal pocket in a very stylised way and playing and marking any bamboo or palm fronds that are in his enclosure, making as much noise as possible and behaving in a very ostentatious way. When he and Io, Donguri’s son and also a male, were in adjacent enclosures they used to fight and on one occasion Io was quite badly injured. Goemon seems more aggressive than Io, who has probably inherited his mother Donguri’s pacifist nature. You would think Io would move away from the fence so that he wouldn’t get injured. But males will be males and the challenge of battle overcame good sense.

Io

Baby Io Sleeping When He Was 5 Months Old, in 2012

Baby Io Sleeping When He Was 5 Months Old, in 2012

Io is quite shy and doesn’t like a lot of attention from humans. When he was a baby, Donguri used to spend a lot of time with him on Capuchin Island away from the humans and he probably sensed her low opinion of humans. Every day Donguri spends a long time as close to his enclosure as she can get calling to him.

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The Sounds Capybaras Make. Capybara’s Vocalisations, Calls and Barks サウンドは、カピバラメイク。カピバラ発声、呼び出し、樹皮

 

Macaroni

Macaroni

Capybaras make the most beautiful sounds and vocalisations. When they are happy, or pleased to see you, they make a soft, chuckling sound known in academic circles as “click call”.

Capybaras are very gregarious and often vocalize.

A Capybara chorus, when a number of capybaras sing in Unison, is truly magical. You can hear a capybara chorus when a group of capybaras decides to go on the move; perhaps they decide on a mass exodus from land into their pond. The “singing” can go on for half an hour or longer. A group of females interested in the male capybara will also make a beautiful, exciting sound and the male capybara will respond.

In this video you can hear a herd of female capybaras singing in Unison. Capybaras make the most beautiful vocalisations when the females sing to the males and the males sing to the females. In this video the female capybaras set of en masse to visit Toku, the male capybara. This procession starts when a very high ranking female capybara, usually Donguri, sets off towards Toku’s enclosure. She will sometimes bark to announce her departure and she very often makes a deep, gruff call. Toku also often sings when they arrive. When they arrive at Toku’s enclosure some of the capybaras rub their morillos on the fence of his enclosure or on the rope barrier just before the entrance to his enclosure. This morillo rubbing is usually done by the most senior capybaras in the hierarchy, Donguri, Hinase, Maple, Momiji and Zabon, although Ryoko, Aoba and some of the younger ones also rub their morillos..

The capybaras also send chemical messages by squeezing their anal scent glands, which they do with a characteristic walk crossing their hind legs. They also deposit faeces and urine at the entrance to Toku’s enclosure. Much bottom sniffing goes on as well.

When a capybara is anxious he or she will repeatedly make a shrill warning call, which sounds like a whistle (see video number 8). Baby capybaras make this call quite frequently when they lose contact with their mothers. Subordinate male capybaras’ main role in the herd is to act as lookouts. They stay on the periphery of the herd and make warning calls at the first sign of danger.

A mother capybara makes the most wonderful sound as her babies suckle. She goes into a trancelike state, her eyes glaze over, her hair rises in pleasure (known as pilo-erection) and you can see her nose vibrate with each vocalisation.

Capybaras also communicate in the ultrasonic and infrasonic sound ranges inaudible to human ears. If you are next to a capybara when it makes an infrasonic call you will feel its body vibrate. Some capybaras also “huff” when they are annoyed, as a protest.

1. This is the sound of a very happy capybara: Tuff’n is one of the most vocal capybara I have met. Some days he sings all day, making his ‘happy sound’ (click call) as he wanders round the house, or eats or even when he poohs! He is a hedonist and loves to be pampered or to laze all day in the sun. He has a very loud voice as well, even though, in this video, he is still just a 2-month-old baby. Sometimes his happy call is interspersed with a shrill call to let Romeo know where he is, as in this video. Tuff’n is bonded to Romeo, whereas Romeo is bonded to the humans he lives with. Tuff’n becomes very anxious if he doesn’t know where Romeo is. Romeo becomes very anxious if his humans leave the home.

2. The sound of a whole herd of capybaras singing in unison is truly magical. Here you can watch young Yuzu slipping about as she tries to scratch herself on a slippery, mossy ledge in the pond.カピバラの群れの曲の全体的な音が一斉に素晴らしい、本当に魔法です。ここでは、滑り若いゆずを見ることができます。彼女は苔むした、滑りやすい棚の上に自分自身を傷つけしようとします。池の中

Here is another video of fifteen Capybaras singing in unison. Everything comes alive with the magical sound of Capybaras. This chorus goes on for up to half an hour or longer. Some afternoons we were treated to it on at least two or three occasions over the course of the afternoon, other afternoons no chorus at all. After watermelon time, one or two capybaras make their escape to the freedom of the pond, while the others remain in the pampering area. Then the chorus starts as the capys begin to think about moving en masse into the water. After about 10 minutes the exodus begins. The four youngest tend to be reluctant to leave since they get the most pampering and feeding, and they know that if they stay behind every visitor who comes into their enclosure will buy at least one container of ‘Capybara’ pellets to feed them.

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最大限に音を上げてください Please turn sound up to maximum
斉に歌っている15頭のカピバラたち、これほど不思議な光景はありません。すべては、カピバラたちの不思議な音声で盛り上がっています。 このコーラス(合唱)は、少なくとも30分に及んでいます。

3. The sound a capybara mother makes as her babies suckle is truly magical. She goes into a trancelike state, her eyes glaze over and she starts to “sing”. She relaxes and seems to be very happy. Based on my observations it seems to me the sensation of the babies suckling at her teats maybe a very pleasurable one for a mother capybara.


4. This is the joyful sound of capybaras romancing: Female capybaras rub and nibble the male capybara and vocalise:


5 At the start of this video Kaede, a female capybara, emits a series of calls. Kaede frequently escapes from the enclosure, but unlike the other capybaras who like to escape, she doesn’t always go to the lush green grass near the enclosure. She often goes to visit Ran, a male capybara all alone in a tiny pen nearby. She sits against the wall of his pen and he comes over to be as close to her as possible on the other side of the wall. They cannot see each other because of the solid wall. Kaede is low down in the female hierarchy so perhaps she sees her chances of mating with the very desirable Yasushi as slender and is setting her sights on Ran instead.

The capybaras sitting by the gate in the video are all hoping to escape. It tends to be the same capybaras all the time who like to escape. Yasushi is the magnificent long-haired male in this video, showing an interest in some of the females; you will notice that the females are also showing an interest in Yasushi by sniffing his rear end and his testicles. He is always the centre of attention for the female capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park.

“ビデオの始まりはカエデから(2008年9月10日に生まれた雌のカピバラ)は一連の囁きを発します。私は彼女が何を言ったのか、囁いたのか、知っていいればと思います。カエデは、一番の脱出の名人。(カピバラのエリアから)しかし、逃げるのを好む他のカピバラとは異なり、彼女は構内の近くの青々とした緑の芝生に必ずしも行きません。 彼女はランを訪ねにしばしば行きます。そして、オスのカピバラの近くで小さな囲いの中で一人きりで居ます。彼女はオスのカピバラの反対側に座ります。そしてオスは、出来るだけ親しくしようと近寄ってきます。カエデは、女性のカピバラ階級の中では下位にいます。おそらく彼女はヤスシと結婚する可能性を感じいますが、、ランにも興味を持たせるようにしています。ランはたぶん生物学的にみると、将来パークのカピバラのボスになる存在でしょう。                                                                                        ビデオの中で門のそばに座っているカピバラのすべては、逃げることを望んでいます。 誰が逃げるのが好きかは、常に同じカピバラである傾向があります。 ヤスシはこのビデオの中の素晴らしい長髪のカピバラです。そして、女性の何人かに対する関心を示します。あなたは、女性が彼の後部と彼のピンク色の大事なところ(男性自身)のにおいを嗅ぐことによってヤスシに対する関心も示していると気がつきます。 彼は、常に長崎バイオパークの雌のカピバラの注目の的です

6. I believe this unusual capybara vocalisation is a sign of frustration. Donguri has made this call several times when she wanted to visit the male capybara, Toku, but he is in a separate enclosure and she cannot be with him. On the occasion shown in this video Donguri has already made this strange vocalisation several times. It is barely audible the second time (after about 28 seconds). She is calling to Momiji who is in a separate enclosure with her three babies. She is Momiji’s mother. In the wild Donguri would have access to all the capybaras in the herd including her grandchildren and great grandchild, so it must be very upsetting and frustrating for her that she cannot get to them. She also got very upset when a film crew entered Momiji’s enclosure and Momiji became very stressed. Donguri made the same call when she hurried over to Toku’s enclosure. She had been rubbing her morillo and marking and urinating in Toku’s presence so she may be coming into oestrus.

This is a very interesting call, not frequently made.  I have never seen reference to it in research papers on capybara vocalisations.

Donguri, leader of the female herd of capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park, wants to visit the male capybara, Toku who is kept on his own separate enclosure. I love the soft, sweet, gentle look in Donguri’s eye as she thinks about Toku and calls to him. She is very frustrated that she cannot be with him.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-5akpIqDJo&spfreload=10

 

7. The Bark: This is the sound a capybara makes when he or she barks. Capybaras bark when they want to protest. This bark has a number of different meanings. It can be a warning, either of danger or that the capybara who is barking is not happy about something. In the wild a male capybara will bark to warn another male capybara to keep off its territory. In the wild capybaras will also bark when they perceive danger. This might be a predator such as a Jaguar or caiman. They will also bark at other capybaras in the herd if they are upset, frustrated or annoyed with that capybara. Momiji (a mother capybara at Nagasaki Bio Park) would bark in frustration at her baby Aoba’s frequent demands for milk, Aoba was an exceptionally greedy baby capybara and Momiji is an excellent mother so she always gave in to Aoba’s demands, unlike Maple who often refused milk to her babies, Cookie and Butter. The bark is also used as an alert call; for example at Nagasaki Bio Park, Donguri, the number one capybara in the hierarchy, may bark when she hears that breakfast is about to be served. On one occasion when a serious fight broke out between the two babies, Aoba and Cookie, Donguri jumped up and barked before rushing over to intervene and break up the fight. When capybaras are fighting over the food troughs there may be barks of protest and warning. In the wild the main role for the subordinate male capybaras is to act as lookout, and make warning calls. These subordinate male capybaras stay on the periphery of the herd.

8.  Capybara Alarm Calls “Danger Humans” カピバラアラームが呼び出し「危険の人間」

Most afternoons at about 4 PM Goemon, a 4-year-old male capybara who was born at Nagasaki Bio Park and is in a separate enclosure to keep him apart from the females, makes the most compelling, frantic calls. These vocalisations include a very shrill component, sometimes followed by a sound that reminds me of the call of the kookaburra. I will be uploading a video before too long, but it is fantastic, a great privilege, to be in his presence when he is making these calls.

Goemon is a very macho male with a huge, glossy morillo. Toku, the breeding male who is not related to the Bio Park herd, is by contrast a much calmer male, highly intelligent and with a soft, gentle look in his eye. Every day if there are no females visiting Goemon he starts “strutting his stuff” – vocalising, doing some eye-catching behaviour such as aggressively playing with a bamboo frond, doing a very stylised version of “the walk” rubbing his anal glands. The call attracts the attention of the females some of whom will always go to visit him. Toku never goes in for such aggressively masculine behaviour. His vocalisations are gentler. He seems just as popular with the females.

Goemon’s mother was Aki, Donguri’s aggressive sister who was number 1 in the female Bio Park hierarchy in 2012 when I first visited, and his father was Yasushi. Zabon, who still lives with the herd at the Biopark, is his sister. Syu, another male capybara whose mother and father were also Aki and Yasushi, but who was very gentle and affectionate and a great favourite of Donguri, also used to make a similar, but less frantic, call at about the same time each afternoon when he was a-year-old. Syu was 10 months younger than Goemon.

It sounds as if Goemon is communicating with another capybara. Not Toku, but possibly Nina or Io, both males who were born at Nagasaki Bio Park and live alone in separate enclosures. Nina is in the Wood of Squirrel Monkeys, but nobody ever sees him.

Syu repeatedly makes this alarm call (whistle) alerting the rest of the herd. Syu is the subordinate male in the herd at Nagasaki Bio Park. He was the most vocal of the capybaras (other than the babies) and frequently made this call at about 3:30 PM in the afternoon. Donguri, the leader of the herd, seems quite concerned. When a capybara is anxious he or she will repeatedly make a shrill warning call, which sounds like a whistle. Baby capybaras make this call quite frequently when they lose contact with their mothers. Subordinate male capybaras’ main role in the herd is to act as lookouts. They stay on the periphery of the herd and make warning calls at the first sign of danger.

9. Tooth Chattering 歯のチャタリング
Tooth chattering is only used in an aggressive context, such as fights, for example between animals from different herds, or between animals who do not like each other. Tooth chattering often occurs when one capybara challenges a more senior capybaras in the hopes of moving up the hierarchy. Tooth chattering also occurs during feeding disputes when capybaras are competing for food. During aggressive/agonistic encounters capybaras make this non-vocal sound by clicking their upper teeth against the lower teeth. It is a warning to the other capybara to stop being aggressive in the hopes of avoiding a fight. Usually the subordinate capybara will assume a subordinate posture and move away. Tooth chattering is sometimes followed by fighting and bites.
You can see and hear “tooth chattering” just after 1 minute and 8 seconds, and again for longer at about 1 minute and 32 seconds. Yuzu is doing the tooth chattering. She has been put in a separate enclosure because six of the capybaras at the Bio Park attack her. I was told that she doesn’t defend herself which is why these capybaras pick on her.

Capybaras exhibit complex social behaviour, they are very territorial and their social dominance hierarchy is notable. The herd is very cohesive and does not tolerate individuals from other social groups. Subordinate males play an important role as lookouts for capybara intruders from other herds and potential dangers such as predators.

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This is a summary of the research on capybara vocalisations:

Capybaras are a very vocal species and vocal communication is very important to them in terms of regulating social encounters and alerting other members of their herd to what is happening in their environment such as the presence of predators or babies becoming isolated from the herd.

Syu makes repeated alarm calls. シュー繰り返しアラーム呼び出しを

Syu makes repeated alarm calls. シュー繰り返しアラーム呼び出しを

The capybara’s vocal repertoire comprises seven call types: Whistle, Cry, Whine, Squeal, Bark, Click and Tooth chattering. The functions of these calls fell into four categories based on the behavioural context in which they are emitted: Contact calls, Alarm calls, Distress calls and Agonistic ccalls (i.e. agonistic means unfriendly encounters).


The categorisation of capybaras is as follows: Adults are those capybaras weighing 40 kg or more, Sub-adults weigh between 20 and 40 kg, and Juveniles weigh up to 20 kg.

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Capybaras make contact calls, most usually click calls, more frequently than any other type of call.   Contact calls are used to promote cohesion among individuals that live in social groups.   The whistle and whine were the least frequent type of call.

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The click calls are significantly different for each herd of capybaras indicating that these calls are used to recognise members of the same group and reflect the territorial nature of capybaras. These click calls indicate learned behaviour. The differences were in terms of the length of the click calls, the minimum and maximum frequencies and the dominant frequency.

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There are differences in the calls made based on age and social group. The whistle call was emitted mostly by juveniles, who also did not emit the bark call. The agonistic (i.e. unfriendly) tooth chattering was only used by adults.

Syu makes Alarm Call 当確 アラームコールを行います

Syu makes Alarm Call 当確 アラームコールを行います

Alarm calls and Distress calls:  in this category come Isolation calls indicating social separation which are emitted by animals isolated from the herd and who have lost visual contact with other members of the herd often during foraging. In this situation the capybara becomes distressed. Babies, known as juveniles, emit a call known as a whistle. This is often used by a baby to attract the attention of its mother. Female adults also sometimes use this whistle call when experiencing separation or calling to another capybara herd member who has been separated in a different enclosure. The Cry call was emitted by all 3 age groups, (adult, sub-adult and juvenile) and occurred when an individual became lost from the herd during travelling. The capybara would begin to move while emitting a sequence of cries. Babies also emit this call when competing for food.

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The whine call was emitted by all age groups during feeding behaviour and when trying to grab food from another capybara. This call was also used when the animals were waiting for food from a caretaker, whether or not the caretaker was within sight. The capybara whines in the expectation of receiving food.
Both the whine and the click have been observed while the capybaras are travelling. The click call is probably used to maintain contact during foraging or locomotion and the whine is to request food.

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Click, this call, emitted by all age groups, is a primary means of communication between members of the herd. It is a contact call to keep members of the herd together and is frequently heard when the herd gathers to forage or move as a group, very often in single file. It is also used as a greeting during affiliative (i.e. friendly) interactions between two capybaras, or when a capybara joins a group of capybaras in his herd. These click calls can be heard at night when capybaras are foraging as a way of keeping close together and maintaining contact in the dark. The structural characteristics of this call are: short duration, low frequencies and low auditory range. This suggests that the call is used over short distances and designed not to be heard by predators. It is often used in situations where members of the herd may not be able to see each other either because of low light conditions or when resting hidden in vegetation. The click call is also emitted when a capybara comes close to a human observer or caretaker. I personally have heard this call when a capybara decides to do something pleasant such as join, in this case, me; I could hear the sound getting louder and louder as the capybara approached and then snuggled down beside me. I would therefore describe this click call as an indicator of pleasure or enjoyment.

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The click call, sometimes sounding very slightly different, is also used during agonistic (i.e. unfriendly) encounters such as feeding disputes between adults. In these instances the click calls may be designed to appease or to decrease the likelihood of aggressive encounters during a conflict. In agonistic encounters the phrases were frequently comprised of only two notes. Clicks calls are often punctuated by cries.

Syu and baby Choco have been making repeated alarm calls. シューと赤ちゃんチョコを繰り返しアラームコールを作っています

Syu and baby Choco have been making repeated alarm calls.
シューと赤ちゃんチョコを繰り返しアラームコールを作っています

The Bark is an alarm or alert call and is also given as a warning that the capybara is not happy about something and may be considering an attack. I.e. it has a double function as an alarm/alert call to other capybaras and as a warning threat often to predators. This call is not used by juveniles. A capybara may bark when a human being appears or an unfamiliar noise occurs. During this call the capybara adopts an alert posture, characterised by the elevation of head and ears and sometimes by pilo–erection on their head and neck only. After a period of freezing the capybaras may resume their activity, or flee if there is a predator or other threat present. Some research has suggested “Barking is a signal associated with mobbing behaviour” but this would need to be confirmed.

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(The intensity and frequency variations in alarm calls might provide important clues about the animals environment, such as the predator type or the place where it comes from. This has been observed in other species. More research needs to be done on this.)

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Squeal, emitted by all age groups when a capybara was restrained (during medical procedures etc). The squeal indicates pain or distress, even injury, and may also indicate fear and may act as a warning to other herd members of danger such as the presence of a predator. I have also heard it used by babies during fights when they are bitten.

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Tooth chattering is a non-vocal emission caused by the capybara clicking its upper teeth against its lower teeth. Tooth chattering only occurs during agonistic encounters such as fights, feeding disputes when capybaras are competing for food, or between animals from different herds, or animals who do not like each other. It often starts just before a conflict/fight/attack. It serves as a warning to deter another capybara in the hopes of avoiding a fight. Usually the subordinate capybara will assume a subordinate posture and move away, thus avoiding conflict. Tooth chattering is sometimes followed by bites. The length of tooth chattering can go on for 64 “notes”.

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As capybaras are very territorial it makes sense that there are structural vocal differences between different herds. In some species the structural differences may be associated with specific characteristics of each different conspecific (i.e. members of the same species) group such as the size of the herd. With the exception of the breeding males members of a capybara herd are all related so the signals are indications of kinship and a way for members of the herd to recognise and identify each other. Therefore these vocal differences may be associated with vocal learning or cultural transmission.

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Choco, The Adventurous Capybara チョコ、長崎バイオパークでの偏心カピバラ

Choco is a great character. He is highly intelligent and has worked out where and how to steal the extra food he needs. He didn’t like being at the bottom of the hierarchy and often feeling hungry so he has come up with a number of strategies to ensure he gets plenty to eat. He frequently climbs up on his hind legs and nibbles the bamboo on sale to the visitors. On other occasions he sneaks off to the bamboo store, pushes open the cover with his nose and helps himself. Sometimes he even sits on top of the bamboo food store, if it is empty, and waits for it to be refilled! However, despite these antics the keepers adore him. He is such a sweet, gentle and friendly capybara. As a result of his raids Choco is noticeably larger than his brother Doughnut.

Choco, of Monkey House fame, stealing bamboo while the keeper's back is turned. I'm getting very fond of Choco, he is so delightfully naughty

Choco, of Monkey House fame, stealing bamboo while the keeper’s back is turned. I’m getting very fond of Choco, he is so delightfully naughty

Toku, Choco’s father, was highly intelligent and enterprising. He worked out how to open the gate from his enclosure and gain access to the females. Sadly, my husband informed the keeper before Toku had a chance to enjoy himself. Choco seems to have inherited his father’s intelligence.

Choco Loves Being Petted

Choco Loves Being Petted

Here is a video of Choco attempting to steal some bamboo: Clever Capybara Is Almost Successful賢いカピバラ。ほぼ成功した

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Description of video: He is an exceptionally clever and thoughtful capybara. In this video he is working out how to steal some bamboo. He very frequently steals bamboo. However, because he is so lovable he never gets into trouble. He is a favourite of some of the keepers.

 

Choco, along with Doughnut and Macaroni, are at the bottom of the hierarchy and frequently don’t get enough to eat at breakfast time. On some occasions they get no breakfast at all. Choco has solved this problem by going into the monkey house, on Monkey Island and eating the monkey’s food. Interestingly, the capuchin monkeys tolerate this and seem to like Choco. I was told the monkeys accepted Choco from the very beginning when he started entering the monkey house. Do the monkeys regard Choco as a friend and neighbour? Maybe the Capuchins like him.

Choco Comes Out Of the Monkey House チョコは猿の家から出てくる

Choco Comes Out Of the Monkey House チョコは猿の家から出てくる

 

Doughnut is Choco’s brother and Macaroni is the same age. Macaroni’s mother, Ayu, failed to produce any milk, so Macaroni was put in with Choco and Doughnut and reared by their mother Momiji. In the wild capybaras go in for Alloparenting; i.e. every capybara mother will allow any baby to suckle. So it was quite natural for Momiji to accept Macaroni.

Choco Blissfully Lazing on Top of The Bamboo Store

Choco Blissfully Lazing on Top of The Bamboo Store

Occasionally the monkeys watch Choco as he grazes on their island but they never attack him, whereas they frequently harass some of the other capybaras. They seem particularly to enjoy harassing the capybaras who get most upset by their harassment. It seems as if the more upset the capybara becomes the greater the enjoyment for the Capuchins. If the capybara doesn’t react to their harassment it is as if the Capuchins feel it is not worth their effort to harass.

Choco's Nose Poking Out Of the Monkey House

Choco’s Nose Poking Out Of the Monkey House

Very occasionally Choco makes a hasty exit from the monkey house presumably pushed out by the monkeys.

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Capuchin monkeys are the New World equivalent of chimpanzees, i.e. they are highly intelligent.

Choco

Choco, resting on Monkey Island

On several occasions baby Aoba and Ryoku, one of Hinase’s four babies, sit on the steps leading up to the monkey house, poking their noses through the small entrance door, looking longingly at the monkey’s food. They sit for a very long time before plucking up the courage to go in. They are immediately chased away by the monkeys, which never happens to Choco.

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Choco and Doughnut both spend most of the day on Monkey Island and don’t bother to come over for watermelon as they know they will just be chased away by the other capybaras and attacked.

Goro, The Largest of the Capuchin Monkeys, Checks up on Choco in the Monkey House

Goro, The Largest of the Capuchin Monkeys, Checks up on Choco in the Monkey House

Choco often shelters from the rain in the monkey house, staying there for more than an hour. Sometimes he takes a nap in the cool of the monkey house during the heat of the day in August. On one occasion when he came out after his nap, several of the monkeys went inside as if they had been waiting for him to come out, or perhaps they were looking to see how much of their food he had eaten. The largest male, Goro, looked in several times while Choco was inside, and he was the first to go in when Choco came out. You could see Choco sleeping inside the monkey house with his cute little pink nose and paws poking towards the exit.

Choco Gazing Soulfully from the Monkey House

Choco Gazing Soulfully from the Monkey House

Choco often sits on one of the benches by the visitor entrance in the main enclosure. This attracts the attention of visitors when they enter the petting enclosure and ensures he gets petted and fed. On one occasion Choco, while being petted and in a state of absolute bliss, rolled over and fell off the bench!

Choco Sitting on Top of the Bamboo Store, Waiting Patiently For It To Be Refilled

Choco Sitting on Top of the Bamboo Store, Waiting Patiently For It To Be Refilled

Choco loves rolling in the mud when it rains. As he rolls in the mud he sometimes accidentally rolls right over. Most capybaras panic if they do a 360° roll; they lose their bearings and feel vulnerable. Fearless Choco does not seem bothered. His movements as he rolls in the mud are quite unlike any other capybara, he is so graceful and balletic. As though he was a trained dancer. He stretches, and curls, and points his toes, and holds his poses and uses his paws like a Kathakali dancer (a dance form from Kerala , in India). Capybaras love rolling in the mud and it is very good for their skin.

Choco Loves Rolling in the Mud

Choco Loves Rolling in the Mud

One September morning Ayu gives Choco a nasty bite on his cheek. The wound takes some time to heal as every time Choco squeezes into the monkey house he scrapes the scab off.

Choco You Should Have Been a Ballet Dancer

Choco You Should Have Been a Ballet Dancer

Here is another video of Choco: Capybara In the Monkey House Stealing the Monkey’s Food 猿の食べ物を盗むモンキーハウスにはカピバラ

Description of video: Choco is at the bottom of the hierarchy which means he often doesn’t get enough to eat and gets attacked and chased away by most of the other capybaras at feeding times. However Choco is very intelligent. He now spends most of the day on Monkey Island grazing and eating the monkey’s food. He goes into the monkey house several times every day to steal the monkey’s food or shelter from the rain and have a nap. Interestingly the capuchin monkeys never harass him even though he is stealing their food and they sometimes harass some of the other capybaras especially Momiji and the young ones. They seem to have completely accepted him, perhaps they like him. Choco is now noticeably larger than his twin brother Doughnut who has not taken up residence on Monkey Island and remains at the bottom of the hierarchy at feeding time. The cut on Choco’s cheek was caused by another capybara, Ayu, not by the monkeys. Once or twice Choco comes out of the monkey house in a hurry as if one of the monkeys had encouraged his exit.


One morning the steps into the monkey house are taken away. Choco has been growing chunkier and chunkier but despite this he persists in squeezing through the small entrance into the monkey house. It is becoming obvious that one day he will get stuck.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erQ2wFPZDyU&list=UU6vvD9LkAvhQzItm1kCtCfg

Choco chewing on a stone. Most if not all the capybaras at the Bio Park chew on stones to keep their teeth healthy.

Choco chewing on a stone. Most if not all the capybaras at the Bio Park chew on stones to keep their teeth healthy.

Choco sits in front of the monkey house thinking “Where are my steps?”
After the monkey house steps are taken away Choco frequently goes and sits in front of the opening looking slightly lost and thoughtful. Wondering what has happened to his steps. He gets up on his hind legs and pushes his head inside the monkey house to find something to eat. On one occasion Goro, the largest of the capuchin monkeys, comes along and swipes his bottom.

Here is another video of Choco: Cutest Capybara You Should Have Been A Ballet Dancerかわいいカピバラあなたはバレエダンサーれている必要があります http://youtu.be/iGzeNaPN2oE

Description of video:  Choco moves so gracefully. I’ve never seen a capybara with such graceful paw movements, or the way he moves his body. He reminds me of a Kathakali dancer (a dance form from Kerala , in India). Choco is so patient trying to get a few bamboo leaves to eat. You can see how frustrated he is getting.

 

Choco Napping on the Food Trough

Choco Napping on a Food Trough

Choco used to chase the female capybaras before he was neutered, Doughnut much less so and Macaroni not at all. After the three of them were neutered they were kept in a separate enclosure until the stitches were removed, after about one week. This was to ensure they didn’t go into the water.

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Choco’s father is Toku, his mother is Momiji. Donguri is his grandmother. He was born in July 2014.

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Empathy in Rodents. The Compassionate Capybara. げっ歯類での共感。思いやりカピバラ。

There is a growing body of research proving that rodents are empathetic, compassionate and caring.  (Capybaras are rodents)

(More detailed information about this research at the end of this blog.)

Donguri. Compassionate, Empathetic, Endlessly Caring and Utterly Enchanting.

Donguri. Compassionate, Empathetic, Endlessly Caring and Utterly Enchanting.

The scientific definition of Empathy is the experience of understanding another’s condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. Empathy is known to increase prosocial (helping) behaviors.

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I have friends who live with capybaras in their home as members of the family. If one of my friends is ill or in pain the capybaras will come and lie beside them, all day, until they are better. They may lay their head on the injured part of the body or gently and affectionately nuzzle my friend to show their concern and support.

Capybaras are extremely social and gregarious animals. They suffer enormously if separated from the herd, and in the wild would probably not survive if they were separated from their herd. The baby capybaras like to snuggle together for companionship and warmth

Capybaras are extremely social and gregarious animals. They suffer enormously if separated from the herd, and in the wild would probably not survive if they were separated from their herd. The baby capybaras like to snuggle together for companionship and warmth

Many people living with animals will have experienced this compassionate, empathetic behaviour from their companion animals when they themselves were ill or distressed.

One of the things that drew me to Donguri on my first visit to Nagasaki Bio Park in 2012 was her empathetic, caring nature. At this time Aki was number one in the Bio Park hierarchy. Her slightly larger sister Donguri was not in the hierarchy because, as told to me by the keeper, she didn’t like to fight. Aki must have sensed that Donguri was her main rival and she seemed to go out of her way to pick on Donguri. However, it quickly became apparent to me that Donguri was the most important capybara in the herd at Nagasaki Bio Park. She had a wonderfully gentle and compassionate nature. If any capybara was in distress through pain, illness or isolation, Donguri would go over and sit by them and nuzzle them affectionately.

When Momiji was pregnant and had given birth to Choco and Doughnut in 2013, she was kept in a separate enclosure until the babies were 6 weeks old. She missed the company of the herd and often called to them. Several times every day Donguri would come and sit beside Momiji's enclosure. She would gently call to Momiji and rub noses with her through the bars of the fence.

When Momiji was pregnant and had given birth to Choco and Doughnut in 2013, she was kept in a separate enclosure until the babies were 6 weeks old. She missed the company of the herd and often called to them. Several times every day Donguri would come and sit beside Momiji’s enclosure. She would gently call to Momiji and rub noses with her through the bars of the fence.

If the despondent capybara was in a separate enclosure Donguri would rub noses with her through the bars of the fence. The happiness this brought was very obvious as the capybara’s hair rose in joyful response to Donguri’s loving gesture. If the dejected capybara was too far away or out of sight Donguri would sit as close to her as possible and call to her.

Aoba loves sleeping on top of other capybaras. Why sleep on cold, hard concrete when you can have a soft warm capybara body under you. Aoba is also a great networker so it made sense to try and sleep on top of Donguri; all the young capybaras want to associate with Donguri and they know she will never attack them

Aoba loves sleeping on top of other capybaras. Why sleep on cold, hard concrete when you can have a soft warm capybara body under you. Aoba is also a great networker so it made sense to try and sleep on top of Donguri, the most important capybara in the herd.  All the young capybaras want to associate with Donguri and they know she will never attack them

Donguri was also very tolerant of badly behaved humans.

Following Aki’s tragic death in October 2012 Donguri became number one in the Bio Park hierarchy.

Donguri is such a sweet, gentle, thoughtful capybara. I think she looks so beautiful here, dreaming, with her lips slightly parted.

Donguri is such a sweet, gentle, thoughtful capybara. I think she looks so beautiful here, dreaming, with her lips slightly parted.

Donguri is such an outstanding leader, taking command of a difficult situation and giving support to those capybaras who are unhappy or suffering. She is always watching to see what is going on in the capybara enclosure. Watching the humans to see what they are up to and sensitive to the needs of all the other capybaras in her domain. I don’t remember Aki having the same community spirit or leadership qualities.

On our last Sunday a very serious fight broke out between the babies Aoba and Cookie. At one point Aoba was on top of Cookie and looked as if she would like to kill her! But Cookie wasn’t giving up or running away. Then I heard Donguri give a loud bark. She had been fast asleep by the pond. She immediately jumped up and ran over to break up the fight before any serious injuries occurred. I did not think she could move so fast at her age!

Aoba on the left in a very serious fight with Cookie

Aoba on the left in a very serious fight with Cookie

I was surprised to see her run, but very pleased as I had been worried that she was losing her fitness.

Cookie’s mother Maple arrived soon after to protect her little daughter, followed by Momiji a little later amidst much bottom sniffing. Yasuha, number two in the Bio Park herd who had also come over, looked extremely upset and shook her head vigourously several times. Maple inspected Cookie who had a wound. When Momiji arrived Aoba went straight to her and demanded to suckle! On several occasions after the fight Cookie’s sister Butter went over to Aoba either to express her feelings of concern and anger, or to goad her into fighting.

Aoba is on top of Cookie and looks like she would like to kill her. Although Aoba is 13 days younger than Cookie she is larger as she is always demanding to suckle and Momiji is a fantastic mother

Aoba is on top of Cookie and looks like she would like to kill her. Although Aoba is 13 days younger than Cookie she is larger as she is always demanding to suckle and Momiji is a fantastic mother

You can see the fight in this video:    Baby Capybaras Fight to the Death Until Donguri Intervenes赤ちゃんカピバラは死に戦います。どんぐりが介在

Here is my description posted with the video:

A very serious fight breaks out between the two babies Aoba and Cookie. Aoba, although younger, is bigger than Cookie and at one point jumps on top of her and looks as if she would like to kill Cookie. Something in Cookie’s squeal alerts Donguri, the leader of the herd, who has been sleeping beside the pond. She instantly jumps up, barks and rushes over to break up the fight. You can see Donguri on the right. Maple, Cookie’s mother, also rushes over (on the left) and looks as if she might attack Aoba. Donguri noses her away and diffuses the situation. Maple, on left, Cookie’s mother, checks up on Cookie. At 17 seconds Momiji, Aoba’s mother arrives and checks up on Cookie. At 26 seconds Yasuha, Donguri’s daughter and number 2 in the hierarchy of the Bio Park herd, shakes her head in dismay at this aggressive behaviour between the youngest members of the herd. Aoba, greedy as ever, goes over to her mother Momiji to suckle! At 40 seconds Momiji checks up on little Cookie again. 38 seconds later Yasuha goes over to check on Cookie who is still in shock. You can see the bite wound just in front of Cookie’s ear. Butter, Cookie’s sister, tries to attack Aoba several times after the fight is over. (On the video I have said it was Cookie, but in fact it was Butter no doubt defending her sister Cookie and upset at the way Aoba attacked her).

After the fight Aoba goes over to Hinase’s babies. They turn away as if they were slightly embarrassed by the fight and don’t want to get involved. Meanwhile Aoba’s mother, Momiji, jumps up onto a bench and sits there aloofly as if she to wants too appear above the fray.

One of the many reasons I love capybaras is that they behave in such a responsible way and so much like the best humans. I am particularly thinking of Donguri’s behaviour in this situation. Aoba and Cookie had the worst fight I have ever seen amongst the babies. I didn’t see who started the fight but it escalated to the extent that Donguri became concerned and took action. Both mothers, Maple (Cookie’s mother) and Momiji (Aoba’s mother) came over to protect their babies. There must have been a heightened sense of urgency in little Cookie’s cry that indicated how serious the situation was.

Donguri Standing by Yuzu's Enclosure. Yuzu is suffering with a twig stuck up her cloaca and Donguri is very worried.

Donguri Standing by Yuzu’s Enclosure. Yuzu is suffering and in great pain with a twig stuck up her cloaca and Donguri is very worried.

Thanks to Donguri I was alerted to poor Yuzu’s suffering a few days after the fight. Donguri must have heard a distress call from Yuzu as she suddenly stood up and began walking towards Yuzu’s enclosure calling to her.

You can see Donguri’s behaviour when she becomes aware that Yuzu is suffering in this video:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_g-TU4LiHY&feature=youtu.be

As I watched Yuzu rolling in agony I noticed a small twig about two inches long protruding from her cloaca. For more about Yuzu please see my blog:

https://capybaraworld.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/poor-capybara-i-thought-she-was-dying-with-a-twig-trapped-up-her-cloaca-%e6%82%b2%e3%81%97%e3%81%84%e3%82%ab%e3%83%94%e3%83%90%e3%83%a9%ef%bc%81%e5%b0%8f%e6%9e%9d%e3%81%af%e8%82%9b%e9%96%80/

Poor little baby Cookie is attacked by the aggressive swan. He desperately tries to escape and climb out of the pond

Poor little baby Cookie is attacked by the aggressive swan. She desperately tries to escape and climb out of the pond

On one occasion poor little Cookie was attacked by the swan as she was swimming in the pond. She struggled to clamber up the slippery, moss covered rocks and barely made it out of the pond with the swan pecking her mercilessly. She was visibly shaken and hurting when she got out. Donguri rushed over to make sure she was alright, followed by Cookie’s mother Maple. Afterwards I went over and petted Cookie. She recovered very quickly!

20 Sep 2014 JPEG 178 crop nasty Swan attacks Ricki

That first year in 2012, Donguri’s compassion was particularly evident in relation to Fujiko. Fujiko was pregnant and had been removed from the herd in early August and taken to a separate enclosure just over the hill and out of sight of all the capybaras in the herd. At Nagasaki Bio Park pregnant capybaras used to be removed from the herd prior to giving birth as it was thought the babies might be in danger of aggression from rival female capybaras. In reality most baby capybaras will not experience any danger, and it is certainly very stressful for the pregnant mother to be isolated from the herd. As it is very difficult to predict accurately when a female capybara will give birth a pregnant capybara may spend several weeks alone, in isolation prior to giving birth. This was the case with Fujiko who spent six weeks alone out of sight of the herd before she gave birth in September. Donguri and Fujiko’s two daughters, Ayu and Hinase, would sit by the fence boundary closest to Fujiko for several hours every afternoon, and frequently call to her. On one occasion the entire herd went over to be as close to Fujiko as possible and called to her. Donguri frequently appeared to respond to distress calls from Fujiko that were not audible to my human ear.

One time I was sitting beside Donguri when she suddenly got up and began calling. She looked at me and went immediately to the boundary fence nearest Fujiko. I followed her. She looked up at me again. Capybara eyes are very expressive; research at the Universidade Federaldo Parana, Curitiba, Brazil, has shown them to be structurally very similar to human eyes. Having spent several years in close/intimate proximity to capybaras I believe that I can read their body language and facial expressions. Donguri knows humans control access to the different enclosures and as I am a human I felt she wanted me to take her to Fujiko. I so wished I could have helped her and it was heartbreaking knowing that I had let her down. She could never understand that I didn’t have the authority to comply with her wishes. You can see her behaviour in this video. Donguri walks over to the boundary fence, followed by Ayu. Hinase who has been in the pond some distance away joins us. Donguri calls repeatedly. It must be very stressful for Fujiko to be on her own, especially as she is pregnant. Capybaras are very social animals.

Donguri is the most wonderful leader and she continually amazes me with her compassion. She is such an exceptional and interesting capybara.

Towards the end of our visit I noticed that Yasuha was following Donguri around. Yasuha is number two in the hierarchy, and I wondered if she was learning how to be a good leader by following Donguri’s example. Yasuha is Donguri’s daughter and has inherited Donguri’s calm, laid-back personality. She is now the largest capybara in the herd and will make a wonderful leader as she too, like Donguri, avoids unnecessary aggression. This is in stark contrast to chubby Maple, who is joint number three in the hierarchy with Hinase, and is always ready to attack particularly when food is involved or if a capybara she doesn’t like wants to sit in the Onsen.  Since I wrote this blog Yasuha tragically died in May 2015 as a result of an ektotropic pregnancy. This is where the fetus develops outside the womb. It is possible her life could have been saved if she had been operated on in time.

Donguri Taking a Break from the Stresses of Being The Herd Leader

Donguri Taking a Break from the Stresses of Being The Herd Leader

Donguri is the 5th oldest capybara in Japan. She is 11 years old and I was very upset to see how much she had aged in the last year. I desperately hope she lives to be 13 or at least 12. I thought she visibly perked up during my visit because of all the attention we gave her. Being an older capybara she doesn’t capture the imaginations of the less imaginative visitors who focus on the babies. And I worry about her feeling left out. She certainly gets much less food, bamboo and pellets, from visitors.

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どんぐりは、日本で時代に7番かもしれません。日本での第7回最古カピバラ。
彼女は、私たちの訪問のための非常に幸せだった。私たちは彼女をとても食べ物と注意を与えた!彼女は古いカピバラですので、訪問者は彼女を無視。赤ちゃんカピバラのような想像力を持っていない人は。私は彼女が取り残さ感じることを心配。

I am heartbroken.  Donguri died peacefully in the early morning of June 17, 2016. She remained as leader of the Bio Park herd right up to the end of her life. I will never forget her. I learned so much about capybaras and animal behaviour from her. She was a truly exceptional capybara.

Fortunately scientists are learning from recent research just how similar many species, including rodents, are to humans in terms of their personalities, character and emotional responses to situations. I have no time for people who decry anthropomorphism. As the eminent ethologist, Marc Bekoff, says, we have the words to describe emotions in humans why on earth wouldn’t you use these same words when they are applicable in situations where animals are behaving.

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Here is information and links to research evincing empathy in rodents:

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Recent scientific research has shown that mice display empathy – they feel the pain of other mice and change their behavior. In this compelling story CeAnn Lambert, director of the Indiana Coyote Rescue Center, saw that two baby mice had become trapped in the sink and were unable to scramble up the slick sides. They were exhausted and frightened. CeAnn filled a small lid with water and placed it in the sink. One of the mice hopped over and drank, but the other was too exhausted to move and remained crouched in the same spot. The stronger mouse found a piece of food and picked it up and carried it to the other. As the weaker mouse tried to nibble on the food, the stronger mouse moved the morsel closer and closer to the water until the weaker mouse could drink. CeAnn created a ramp with a piece of wood and the revived mice were soon able to scramble out of the sink.

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A rat in a cage refuses to push a lever for food when it sees that another rat receives an electric shock as a result. You can read more about research showing empathy amongst animals at this link:
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animal-emotions/200906/wild-justice-and-moral-intelligence-in-animals Animal Emotions

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Marc Bekoff writes: “A study conducted by Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal, Jean Decety, and Peggy Mason working at the University of Chicago and published in the prestigious journal Science provides evidence of empathy-driven behavior in rodents. The study showed that untrained laboratory rats will free restrained companions and this helping is triggered by empathy (Ben-Ami Bartal, I., Decety, J., & Mason, P. 2011. Empathy and pro-social behavior in rats. Science 334, 1427-1430). They’ll even free other rats rather than selfishly feast on chocolate. Researcher Peggy Mason notes, “That was very compelling … It said to us that essentially helping their cagemate is on a par with chocolate. He can hog the entire chocolate stash if he wanted to, and he does not. It’s also very interesting that the rats were not trained to open the cage door. Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal noted. “These rats are learning because they are motivated by something internal. We’re not showing them how to open the door, they don’t get any previous exposure on opening the door, and it’s hard to open the door. But they keep trying and trying, and it eventually works.”
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animal-emotions/201112/empathic-rats-and-ravishing-ravens

This is an interesting link: “Rats are guides to emerging questions of evolution and cognition including whether aspects of consciousness once considered exceptional might in fact be quite common.

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Foremost among these is empathy, widely considered a defining human characteristic. Yet rats it seems possess it too. An especially fascinating line of research, the latest installment of which was published last year in the journal eLife, suggests rats treat each other in an empathic manner. Such thoughtfulness underscores the possibility that rats are far more complicated than we’re accustomed to thinking — and that much of what’s considered sophisticated human behavior may in fact be quite simple.

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This idea runs contrary to notions of human exceptionality. Yet evolution teaches us that humans and other creatures share not only bodies, but brains.
Many well-regarded psychologists and neuroscientists have taken this position in recent years, arguing that simple empathy provides obvious evolutionary benefits for social animals, especially those species in which mothers care extensively for their young. Even complex, higher-order human empathy appears to stem from basic emotional and cognitive processes that rats—indeed, all mammals—certainly possess. (Rat mothers are historically renowned for their devoted affection.)

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“Evidence is accumulating that this mechanism is phylogenetically ancient, probably as old as mammals and birds,” de Waal wrote in a 2008 Annual Review of Psychology paper.”

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The Intriguing New Science That Could Change Your Mind About Rats: http://www.wired.com/2015/01/reconsider-the-rat/

Yet another example of how compassionate rodents are, though I’m sorry they had to experience a watery, near death experience, for scientists to accept this.

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When one rat is drowning, another will put out a helping paw to rescue its mate. Rats that previously had a watery near-death experience, and therefore understood exactly the suffering experienced by their mates, reacted more quickly.

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The researchers also watched what happened when rats had to choose between opening the door to help their distressed cagemate or accessing a different door to obtain a chocolate treat for themselves. In most cases, rats chose to help their cagemate before going for the food. According to Sato, this suggests that, for a rat, the relative value of helping others is greater than the benefit of a food reward.

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The results indicate that rats show empathy. These rodents can share in the emotional state of members of their own species, in this case that of distressed animals.

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“Our findings suggest that rats can behave prosocially and that helper rats may be motivated by empathy-like feelings towards their distressed cagemate,” says Sato, who believes that studies of sociality, such as empathy in rodents, are important for understanding the underlying neural basis of prosocial behavior as well as evolutionary aspects.
http://phys.org/news/2015-05-rats-members-species.html

 

 

More research to show how similar rats are to humans, emotionally, and how compassionate they are.

The findings from this research further confirms the previous research that rats, and by extension other mammals—including humans—are motivated by empathy and find the act of helping others gratifying. The rats help each other because they care. In order to help the rats need to feel emotionally what it feels like to be the trapped rat. If a rat freed a companion one day it transpired that they were more likely to do so again the next day. This means the behaviour of freeing the trapped rat was being reinforced, i.e. there was a reward mechanism, the rat that freed the trapped rat felt good about his compassionate act and so repeated the “good Samaritan” action.

The rats on the anti-anxiety medication were less likely to free the trapped rat because they did not find doing so rewarding and it is thought this was because they did not find the trapped rats situation “troubling” in the first place.

“Helping others could be your new drug. Go help some people and you’ll feel really good,” Mason said. “I think that’s a mammalian trait that has developed through evolution. Helping another is good for the species.”

Rats given midazolam, an anti-anxiety medication, were less likely to free trapped companions because the drug lessened their empathy, according to a new study by University of Chicago neuroscientists.

The research, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, validates studies that show rats are emotionally motivated to help other rats in distress. In the latest study, rats treated with midazolam did not open the door to a restrainer device containing a trapped rat, although control rats routinely freed their trapped companions. Midazolam did not interfere with the rats’ physical ability to open the restrainer door, however. In fact, when the restrainer device contained chocolate instead of a trapped rat, the test rats routinely opened the door. The findings show that the act of helping others depends on emotional reactions, which are dampened by the anti-anxiety medication.

“The rats help each other because they care,” said Peggy Mason, PhD, professor of neurobiology at the University of Chicago. “They need to share the affect of the trapped rat in order to help, and that’s a fundamental finding that tells us something about how we operate, because we’re mammals like rats too.”

When Shan compared the simulated data to those from the experiments, he saw that the untreated rats performed better than the simulations predicted. If they freed a companion one day, the probability that they would do so again the next day increased, meaning the behavior was being reinforced. Meanwhile, rats given midazolam were no more likely to free a companion one day to the next, even if they did so on a previous day.

“We take that as a sign that the rats given midazolam don’t find the outcome rewarding, presumably because they didn’t find it a troubling situation in the first place,” Shan said.

Mason and her team also tested levels of corticosterone, a stress hormone, in the rats when first exposed to the trapped cage mate and compared them to their later behavior. Those with low- to mid-level responses were most likely to free their companions later. They found that those with the highest levels of corticosterone, or those that were under the most stress from the situation, were the least likely to help their cage mates. This fits well with findings in humans suggesting that eventually high stress becomes immobilizing rather than motivating.

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-06-anti-anxiety-medication-limits-empathetic-behavior.html

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Poor Capybara! I Thought She Was Dying With a Twig Trapped up Her Cloaca 悲しいカピバラ!小枝は肛門で立ち往生

Yuzu, lying lifelessly at the far side of her enclosure

Yuzu, lying lifelessly at the far side of her enclosure

 

Humans are slowly beginning to realise how compassionate many animal species are. Much recent research has proven just how empathetic and caring rodents are.

I have witnessed this many times amongst the capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park. Most especially with Donguri, now number one in the herd, who is always alert to the needs and suffering of members of her herd.

Donguri Looks Very Concerned. She alerted me to Yuzu's plight by her behaviour. She walked over to Yuzu's enclosure trying to get as close to Yuzu as possible

Donguri Looks Very Concerned. She alerted me to Yuzu’s plight by her behaviour. She walked over to Yuzu’s enclosure trying to get as close to Yuzu as possible

One morning in September I was sitting beside Donguri petting her when she suddenly became very alert. I had heard nothing but Donguri must have heard a distress call from Yuzu. She got up and started walking towards Yuzu’s enclosure calling. I sensed from Donguri’s behaviour that something was wrong with Yuzu. As soon as I saw Yuzu it was obvious she was in great pain. She was rolling incessantly with a sad and very worried look on her face.

You can see Donguri’s behaviour when she becomes aware that Yuzu is suffering in this video:

 

Yuzu rolling in agony. You can see the twig quite clearly poking out from her cloaca

Yuzu rolling in agony. You can see the twig quite clearly poking out from her cloaca

She must have been calling out in distress in a frequency range inaudible to the human ear. Capybaras’ vocalisations can be outside the range that is audible to the human ear, both ultrasonic (describes sound waves that have frequencies above the upper limit of the normal range of human hearing) and infrasonic (frequencies below the limit of the normal range humans can hear, although if you are next to a capybara you can feel the vibration).

Here is a video I made of Yuzu:

Thanks to Donguri I was alerted to poor Yuzu’s suffering. As I watched her rolling in agony I noticed a small twig about one and a half inches long, about the size of a matchstick, protruding from her bottom.

Yuzu Looking Very Sad and Sorry for Herself

Yuzu Looking Very Sad and Sorry for Herself

She was obviously in great distress. I told the keeper and when he pulled the twig out a much longer, thicker, more knobbly piece of wood came out which had been hidden inside her anal pocket, her cloaca. It must have been very painful for her. I could see the blood from the cut caused by the twig after it was removed. I don’t know if she had eaten the twig, though I would have thought her teeth would have ground it up.

Yuzu spent most of Monday rolling in pain. I felt so sorry for her alone in her misery and agony. I wished I could comfort her and I think Donguri felt the same way as I did

Yuzu spent most of Monday rolling in pain. I felt so sorry for her alone in her misery and agony. I wished I could comfort her and I think Donguri felt the same way as I did

Capybaras like to mark their territory by sending out chemical messages, rubbing their anal glands over the branches of bushes. Perhaps as she was marking a bush the twig got trapped in her bottom and broke off. Or perhaps she liked the sensation of the twig going into her anal pocket since there are no male capybaras in her enclosure for her to mate with. This is of course pure speculation.

Capybaras have such expressive faces. You can see in Yuzu's eyes and the expression on her face how unhappy she is

Capybaras have such expressive faces. You can see in Yuzu’s eyes and the expression on her face how unhappy she is

Yuzu spent most of Monday rolling and in agony. The keeper thoughtfully put some hay down for her to lie on. Donguri spent the day sleeping beside Yuzu’s enclosure, as near to her as she could be.

Yuzu spent the entire next day, Tuesday, lifeless at the back of her enclosure. I was certain she wouldn't survive... But You Never Know with Capybaras

Yuzu spent the entire next day, Tuesday, lifeless at the back of her enclosure. I was certain she wouldn’t survive… But You Never Know with Capybaras

On Tuesday morning when I arrived Yuzu was lying lifeless in the far corner of her enclosure. She remained like this, completely lifeless for the entire day. I really thought she would not survive. Then much to my joy and relief at about 3 pm on Wednesday she slowly got up and started nibbling fallen leaves and then went over and ate some of her breakfast. Over the next few days she gradually improved.

Donguri Spent the Day by Yuzu's Enclosure. She would like to have been able to go into the enclosure and be beside Yuzu

Donguri Spent the Day by Yuzu’s Enclosure. She would like to have been able to go into the enclosure and be beside Yuzu

If it had not been for Donguri I would never have noticed that twig protruding from Yuzu’s bottom, and I’m certain the keepers would never have noticed it as they are extremely busy with their other duties and chores. The piece of twig that was visible was very small. The much larger and more painful piece of twig was hidden from view inside poor Yuzu.

I have been pondering on the fact it took Yuzu two days to recover. I believe that, quite apart from the physical pain, she must have been suffering a great deal psychologically. Nobody, of course, has done any research on how sensitive emotionally capybaras are, but it does seem as if they suffer a great deal when stressed and I am certain Yuzu found this very stressful.

Yuzu made a full recovery.

ゆずは今健康である

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“Danger! Humans!” The Elephants Cried. Elephant Communication Is Highly Sophisticated.

Elephants.  Photograph by Peter Knights For  wildaid.org

Elephants. Photograph by Peter Knights For wildaid.org

 

“Danger! Humans!” The Elephants Cried.

Elephants Have a Very Sophisticated Vocabulary.

Elephant alarm calls are so sophisticated that they can communicate who or what the threat is. In this study the researchers analysed the acoustic properties of each type of alarm call and discovered that the elephants were able to tell their herd whether the threat was from humans or bees. A human would not be able to detect this difference because the calls include distinctive features at a low frequency inaudible to the human ear.

An earlier study had shown that when elephants hear the sound of disturbed bees they make a distinct alarm call to warn other elephants of this threat.

The research was conducted on wild elephants in Kenya by Oxford University, Save the Elephants and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The elephant species was Loxodonta africana.

The purpose of this research was to discover whether elephant alarm calls:

• identify the specific type of threat, in this case humans or bees;

• indicate the level of urgency the threat poses;

• result in behaviour based on the type of threat and the level of urgency.

A recording of the voices of male Samburu tribesmen was played to resting elephants and their behaviour and vocal responses were recorded. The vocalisations were played to another group of resting elephants to see if their reaction would be the same. It was. Both groups became vigilant and ran away making a low rumbling call.

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Humans pose the greatest threat to elephants. This threat includes poaching for ivory, destruction of their habitat and conflict over water and other resources. In the wild elephants have few predators, although lions will attack elephant calves.

Amazingly elephants have learnt which tribes of humans in Kenya pose the greatest threat. They can distinguish between Samburu herdsmen, Masaai herdsmen and Kamba farmers, as earlier studies have shown. The Masaai will kill elephants. The elephants know this and their alarm calls warn of greater danger when they smell or see Masaai, than when they smell or see the Kamba, who pose less of a threat. They recognise the voices of Samburu herdsmen and, impressively, were also able to decide how great the threat was from the Samburu tribesman in different situations. Their alarm calls reflected this: mostly they would just rumble, but when they perceived a greater threat from the Samburu they would roar and trumpet as well.

The Samburu are pastoralists in northern Kenya. Their cultural beliefs mean that traditionally they have not hunted elephants for ivory or meat. However, as human populations grow the Samburu come into conflict with elephants over resources such as the watering hole. Chance encounters in the bush can also be deadly for elephants. So these days the Samburu do pose a threat to the elephants.

Elephants produce a number of alarm calls in response to threats from predators, including rumbles, roars and trumpets. The most frequent type of call is the rumble. At the highest level of perceived threat the rumble includes roars and trumpets.

The response of the elephants to the bees was compared with their response to the Samburu male voices. In both cases the elephants showed heightened vigilance, made warning calls and ran from the threat.

One behaviour that was specific to the alarm call signifying bees, and which did not take place when the elephants heard the alarm call for humans, was an increase in headshaking. The elephants shook their heads to ward off the bees, dislodge any that were already on their heads and prevent bee stings.

To find out if the level of threat was communicated by the alarm calls the rumbles, roars and trumpets were acoustically modified to reflect three levels of threat:

• Low rumble with roars and trumpets reflecting the highest level of alarm. This resulted in the most extreme reaction from the elephants.

• The same low rumble but with the roars and trumpets removed. This was the most typical response to the sound of Samburu voices, and elicited a similar response to that of the threat of bees.

• Rumble which sounded like the non-alarm rumbles elephants make. The elephants’ response was to move half the distance compared with the level 2 alarm. As a control, the recordings included a section of “white noise” which elicited the lowest level of response from the elephants.

On hearing the calls the elephants became vigilant. They did this by: “smelling” , when an elephant raises his trunk into the air or stretches it out in front of his face, horizontally; “scanning” for danger, with their ears held out; “head-up” when the elephant lifts its head with its ears held out and holds this position for more than 2 seconds. When these are all displayed at the same time they are known as “vigilance” behaviours.

Elephants have remarkable vocal abilities. They can manipulate their mouth, tongue and trunk to shape and alter the sounds of their rumbles and thus make different alarm calls which identify the type of threat and also the level of threat. The difference between the alarm rumble warning of humans and alarm rumble warning of bees can be compared to the effect of a person changing a vowel in a word, for example “poo” and “pee”. This is similar to the way humans vocalise. Elephants can produce rumbles through both their mouth and their trunk. The alarm rumbles are produced through their trunk.

Impressively, elephants can learn to imitate the sounds of the environment and the calls of other species, including humans and other elephant species. They have also worked out in which places they are most at danger, and they avoid these.

Elephant communication is complex and sophisticated; further research is being done in this exciting field.

The ultimate purpose of this study is to safeguard the elephant population by learning how to avoid conflict between humans and elephants, while at the same time protecting the livelihoods of the local population.

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“Capyboppy” by Bill Peet. How many people who say they love this book have actually read it? カピバラ「capyboppy」の物語

Capyboppy

Capyboppy. Photo by Bill Peet

 

Bill Peet, aged (I’m guessing) about 17, persuades his parents to let him have a Capybara as a pet. Capyboppy arrives, and immediately settles in, acting for all the world as if he owns the place…easily the most important member of the family. He chews everything and terrorises the cats, but his captivating charms ensure he wins the hearts of the family. Bill’s mother is particularly captivated, she pampers him with showers in the morning and in the evening he sits on her lap and watches TV with the family. At weekends he plays with Bill’s friends in the swimming pool, the centre of attention.

 

Capyboppy Hates Being Banished to This Shed at Night. No Capybara Should Ever Sleep Alone at Night. In the wild they would be surrounded by their herd.

Capyboppy Hates Being Banished to This Shed at Night. No Capybara Should Ever Sleep Alone at Night. In the wild they would be surrounded by their herd.  Drawing by Bill Peet.

 

The only part of his daily ritual he doesn’t like is when he is dispatched on his own to the garage to spend the night alone. Capybaras are exceptionally social animals, and a capy in the wild would never sleep alone.

 

Capyboppy on Bill's Mother's Lap, Looking So Happy, Loving the Attention.   Drawing by Bill Peet

Capyboppy on Bill’s Mother’s Lap, Looking So Happy, Loving the Attention. Drawing by Bill Peet

 

When summer comes Bill goes away with some friends. The parents, finding that a wild animal can make a slightly unruly pet when its closest friend abandons it, decide to make an enclosure for Capyboppy in the garden where he can spend the summer. Banished from the house, and the socialising he needs, he becomes depressed.

 

"These Plants Are Tasty"  Drawing by Bill Peet

“These Plants Are Tasty” Drawing by Bill Peet

 

One day a young boy, a friend of the family, comes over to visit and goes out to feed Capyboppy some grass. In his confused and depressed state Capyboppy bites him. Bill’s younger brother gives Capyboppy a ferocious kick which sends him to the bottom of the swimming pool where he stays a considerable time. Eventually he surfaces and crawls to a patch of grass where he remains motionless.

The family ignore him despite the fact that he has suffered a serious wound as a result of the kick. No effort is made to check up on him or to take him to a vet, even when he has not moved at all for hours. Two days later the family belatedly wonder if he is still alive!

Although the boy who was bitten does not in any way hold Capyboppy responsible, the family decide they can no longer keep him and he is sent to a zoo. Despite the obvious signs that Capyboppy is being bullied by the hippos who share his enclosure, the family leave him there. The book ends at this point. Capyboppy is eventually attacked and killed by a guanaco. This all takes place in the 1960s.

 

Capyboppy Enjoying His Shower

Capyboppy Enjoying His Shower. Drawing by Bill Peet

 

Bill Peet went on to do artwork for Disney, and his talent as an artist can be seen in the many excellent drawings featuring Capyboppy, which completely capture his engaging personality and his exceptionally expressive capybara face.

 

Capyboppy enters his new home. The cats are terrified! Capyboppy completely ignores them.

Capyboppy enters his new home. The cats are terrified! Capyboppy completely ignores them. Drawing by Bill Peet

 

I enjoyed the first half of the book, but overall I found it deeply depressing and I am stunned that so many people claim to like it and recommend it for children.   Perhaps they only remember the first part of the book, the happy times for Capyboppy.    Otherwise they cannot possibly be true animal lovers.

 

Capyboppy loves swimming with Bill's friends. He is the centre of attention.

Capyboppy loves swimming with Bill’s friends. He is the centre of attention. Drawing by Bill Peet

 

The moral of the story: if you are going to have a pet and most especially if you are hoping to turn a wild animal into a house pet, do your homework. Make sure you understand its needs and be certain you will still find it enchanting when it grows out of its small, cute baby phase. Most of all, are you the sort of person who will act responsibly and always put your pet’s needs first, before your own needs and desires.

The Peets appear to have given little thought to Capyboppy’s emotional well being as he grew older and larger; ultimately abandoning him to his fate at the zoo in LA despite the warning signs that the hippos with whom he shared the enclosure would never provide him with the companionship he desperately needed.

 

"This Handbag Is Tasty"

“This Handbag Is Tasty”. Drawing by Bill Peet

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Capybaras, Beware of Toxic Plants, Chemicals and Poisonous Animals like Scorpions and Snakes. Humans, Remove These from Your Land, Garden and Yard. カピバラに対して毒性である植物。有毒化学物質。危険な動物 – ヘビ、クモ、サソリ

Would You Want To Be Responsible for the Death of This Capybara?

Would You Want To Be Responsible for the Death of This Capybara?

 

Many plants, bushes and trees are toxic to animals. There is little information available about which poisonous plants are specifically toxic to capybaras. Some people recommend that any plant that is toxic to horses or sheep may be toxic to capybaras, as they have a similar digestive system.  Cows and goats can tolerate some toxins, like mouldy hay which you should never feed to a capybara, horse etc.  The limitation of this information with regard to horses is the difference in body size between horses and capybaras. Capybaras are much smaller than horses and therefore may be more susceptible to any toxins in the plants they eat. I.E., a capybara would be in danger after eating a smaller quantity of a toxic plant than a much larger horse would be.

A common misconception is that animals will instinctively know which plants are safe to eat. In the wild animals will usually learn from older animals in the herd which plants are safe to forage on. Once you take an animal out of its natural environment it becomes your responsibility to ensure every aspect of its safety, including what food it consumes, whether there are dangerous snakes, spiders or scorpions in the area, and that it cannot access lethal chemicals like antifreeze.

Rodents are addicted to sugar and sweet foods. I would never introduce anything sweet into a capybara diet as this can lead to the capybara becoming curious about other foods which he/she had never shown any interest in before, including bird seed.

I would remove all seeds and berries from my garden/yard as soon as they fall from trees.

Two plants which are known to be lethal to capybaras are Azaleas and the Chinaberry tree (also known as the Bead tree, Pride of India, Texas Umbrella tree, Melia Azedarach, White Cedar, Paradise tree, China Ball tree, Persian Lilac). All parts of the Chinaberry tree are considered toxic with the highest concentration of toxins found in the berries. Clinical signs include drooling, diarrhoea and depression; with a larger intake of berries, toxicity can lead to seizures and death. Eating as few as 6 berries can lead to death in a human.

.Chinaberry Tree. Please see my text for other names of this toxic tree

Chinaberry Tree. Please see my text for other names of this toxic tree

At least one capybara has died as a result of eating the leaves of an Azalea plant. Another capybara became ill, but fortunately survived, after eating the berries of the Chinaberry tree.
Oleander is frequently found growing in gardens and public parks. As little as a few mouthfuls of certain parts of this plant can kill a horse in minutes. The yew tree is another very toxic plant; 8 ounces can kill an adult horse in 5 minutes.

With other plants, such as bracken, the toxic effect can build up over months. So don’t assume your capybara is unharmed just because there is no immediate sign of poisoning after eating a plant that is known to be toxic. In the long term you might be killing your capybara.

Some plants are only poisonous when fresh. Other plants only become poisonous when they are dried. Other plants are only poisonous when they are dead. Some plants are poisonous when they are both fresh and dried.

Many chemicals are toxic to animals. Antifreeze is highly toxic to animals and will kill in a very short space of time. There are many other chemicals such as petroleum products which are highly toxic. Make sure your pet does not have access to these, for example by wandering into your garage.


Common signs to look out for if you think your capybara may have eaten a toxic plant, or other toxin, are:

Drooling
Rolling, unnatural or excessive rolling is often an indication that your capybara is suffering pain in its digestive tract. What we humans would call a tummy ache.
Diarrhoea
Depression
Respiratory distress (shortness of breath, increased heart rate, distressed breathing)
Restlessness
Scratching at the mouth or face
Increased urination
Muscle twitching or shaking
Seizures
Death


Diarrhoea can prove fatal in capybaras.

If you suspect your capybara has eaten any toxic plant take it to your vet immediately. Do not wait for symptoms to appear. By the time symptoms appear it may be too late to save your animal.

If you have any doubts about the safety and toxicity of any plant in your garden you should take the plant to your local garden centre or better still one of the county/state government run agencies, often called the Cooperative Extension, devoted to agriculture and home plant issues. They go by a variety of different names including IFAS or EDIS. They are coordinated through State Universities and implemented by County offices. Every county should have an office. They do a lot of work with plant identification, agricultural disease/pests, gardening, pasture weeds, livestock issues, healthy living, energy savings, invasive plants, beneficial insects, etc. Unfortunately they are sometimes understaffed but this would be a good place to start your search for information. Each state should provide information online regarding toxic plants and other dangers to animals within that state. You should be prepared to do your own search, even if it is time-consuming, to ascertain any dangers that might threaten the life of your beloved capybara.


I would remove every toxic plant from my garden or land rather than risk the death of a capybara I loved
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A surprisingly large number of common garden and household plants are toxic to pets, and reactions to toxicity range from mild to life-threatening. Capybaras like to explore their environment by mouthing and tasting, and they are therefore particularly vulnerable to accidental poisoning. Many toxic plants might look very pretty in a garden, but the health of your capybara should come first. It is important to know which plants are toxic. Also, if you tell a capybara “No” you will arouse its curiosity and make it more likely to target this plant.

Romeo. A Very Special Capybara

Romeo. A Very Special Capybara

 

I had a wonderful experience of this with Romeo. There was a plant in the neighbour’s garden, where Romeo and Tuff’n sometimes go to graze, which was believed to be potentially toxic. Usually the plant was covered with a garbage bin so that Romeo and Tuff’n couldn’t access it. However as the plant grew bigger the bin began to damage the plant. So instead Romeo was told “no” every time he went over to the plant and we ensured that he did not eat the plant. Marvin decided that Romeo’s interest in the plant was mostly to get Marvin’s attention rather than to eat the plant. As an experiment Marvin turned his back to Romeo as Romeo approached the plant. As soon as Romeo noticed that Marvin wasn’t looking he completely lost interest in the plant! Just like a mischievous child seeking attention.

Romeo is an exceptional capybara who tries to please. It might well be that turning your back will not have this effect on some other capybaras who might go ahead and try and eat the plant. Romeo knew he was not supposed to eat the plant and he is probably a little unusual amongst capybaras because of his very close relationship with the humans he has bonded with.

Waiting to Go to the Park to Graze

Waiting to Go to the Park to Graze

The following are very useful sites:

This site contains information about Poisonous Plants for Horses: http://www.understanding-horse-nutrition.com/poisonous-plants.html

This site has photographs of the Poisonous Weeds in Horse Pastures. Created by Rutgers University and New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES). Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet FS938. May 2013: http://njaes.rutgers.edu/pubs/fs938/

You can do a search by plant name to determine toxicity at this site: Plants Poisonous to Livestock created by Cornell University: http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/php/plants.php?action=display&ispecies=horses

This site gives information about plants that are toxic to sheep. You might want to check it out: http://www.homesteadingtoday.com/livestock-forums/sheep/31663-sheep-basics-toxic-plant-list.html

This site includes toxic chemicals, medicines and drugs as well as poisonous plants. Produced by the pharmaceutical company Merck: http://www.merckmanuals.com/pethealth/special_subjects/poisoning/plants_poisonous_to_animals.html

Romeo to on the deck 20%


The following information relates to pets in general, primarily the most common pets such as cats and dogs.
I personally would not risk a capybara’s health by including any of these plants in my garden or on my land:

The following 12 plants are the toxic plants most commonly eaten by pets in general which resulted in the pets requiring medical treatment. Not all the pets survived. The danger posed by these plants will vary from species to species and the amount the animal has eaten. I would recommend removing all these toxic plants from your garden or land.

1. Lilies (Lilium, all spp.): Ingesting any part of the plant can cause complete kidney failure in 36-72 hours. First symptoms appear in a few hours and may include appetite suppression, lethargy, vomiting.
2. Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis): Ingesting any part of the plant can cause cardiac dysrhythmias (any disorder of the heart rate/rhythm/pulse such as beating too fast, too slow or irregularly), vomiting, diarrhoea, confusion, weakness, and even death.
3. Anemone (Anenome and Pulsatilla, family Ranunculaceae): Irritates the mucus membranes, and can cause blisters, hemorrhagic gastritis, shock, convulsions, and death.
4. Aloe Vera (family Liliaceae): Vomiting, depression, diarrhoea, anorexia, tremors, change in urine color.
5. Amaryllis (family Amaryllidaceaea, incl. Hippeastrum spp.) All species, including Belladonna Lily, are toxic. The bulbs are the toxic part of the plant. The “Amaryllis” commonly seen during the December holidays are Hippeastrum species. Symptoms include vomiting, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain, increased salivation, anorexia, tremors.
6. Asparagus Fern (family Liliaceae): Allergic dermatitis, gastric upset, vomiting, diarrhea.
7. Daffodil (Narcissus): Vomiting, diarrhea. Large ingestions cause convulsions, low blood pressure, tremors, cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythms).
8. Philodendrons: Irritation, intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips, tongue, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing.
9. Jade Plants (Crassula argentea): Vomiting, depressions, ataxia (in ability to control muscles/lack of muscle coordination), slow heart rate.
10. Chrysanthemums: Vomiting, diarrhea, increased salivation, lack of coordination/ataxia, dermatitis.
11. Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum): The tubers or rhizomes contain the toxic glycoside cyclanin, a terpenoid saponin. Ingestion can cause excess salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, heart rhythm abnormalities, seizures, or even death in rare cases.
12. Cycads (including Sago palm; cardboard palm; etc.): The “Sago palm” is a cycad, not a true palm, and all parts of the plant are poisonous. Symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, melena (black “tarry” feces), jaundice, increased thirst, hemorrhagic gastritis, bruising, coagulopathy (blood is unable to clot properly), liver failure, and death.

The following plants are highly toxic:

• Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia species)
• Castor bean (Ricinus communis)
• Daphne (Daphne spp.)
• Deathcamas & Meadow Deathcamas (Zigadenus venenosus)
• English yew (Taxus baccata)
• Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
• Jimson weed or Devil’s Trumpet (this plant has many common names) (Datura spp.)
• Nicotiana/Tobacco plants (all spp.)
• Oleander (Nerium Oleander)
• Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum)
• Pokeweed (Phytilacca americana)
• Tree tobacco (Nicotiana glauca)
• Western water hemlock (Cicuta douglasii)
• Yew (Taxus cuspidata)

Another useful site that gives information about plants that are potentially poisonous to animals:
Plants Potentially Poisonous to Pets : The Humane Society of the United States http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/plants_poisonous_to_pets.html

You might also want to check out Plants and Flowers that are dangerous for Guinea Pigs and Rabbits. These include:

Bluebell, Crocus, Daffodil, Dock, Foxglove, Hyacinth, Laburnum, Poppy, Ragwort, Tulip and once again Yew

Potato sprouts, potato peelings, and anything to do with a potato plant
Beans and anything to do with a bean plant
Anything to do with a tomato plant (the tomato itself is okay)
Anything to do with rhubarb
Dill (watch out for prepackaged “salad & herb” kits) and
Flowers or any part of a flowering plant
Houseplants
Unidentified weeds
Any foods that were previously frozen
Fruit cores, pits, and seeds. You should of course avoid feeding fruit to capybaras as their digestive system, hindgut fermentation, has not evolved to cope with any food with a high sugar content.

This site includes a list of Plants, Human Medicines and Chemicals, like antifreeze, which are harmful to Guinea Pigs and Rabbits: http://www.jspca.org.je/pets_toxins_info.html

Be Aware of any Animals, Spiders or Snakes in your area whose bite could be lethal to a capybara:

A Scorpion bite can kill a young capybara as happened to one young 7 month old capybara that I was particularly fond of. You should be aware of Scorpion nests if you live in an area with scorpions that pose a danger to young children.

This Enchanting Young Capybara Died after Being Stung by Scorpion. In this photo he is sitting in my lap. He Was so Gentle and Trusting. I still cry when I think about him

This Enchanting Young Capybara Died after Being Stung by Scorpion.
In this photo he is sitting in my lap. He Was so Gentle and Trusting. I still cry when I think about him

Check to see if there are any dangerous snakes, spiders or scorpions in the area in which you live. If you know that poisonous creatures enter your garden or land you will need to think very carefully about how you will deal with this problem. Do you want to risk the life of your capybara by letting your capybara graze unsupervised? I certainly wouldn’t. It is your responsibility to safeguard the life of your capybara.

More information on toxic plants:
http://www.livescience.com/39253-toxic-plants-poison-cats-dogs.html?adbid=10152505207396761&adbpl=fb&adbpr=30478646760&cmpid=514627_20150111_38540967

I have written this blog to get people who live with a capybara to THINK about what dangers may lurk on their property that could kill their beloved capybara. I am always surprised and concerned about how little thought some people give to the potential risks that their capybara might encounter. There seems to be a great deal of inertia.

Please use this blog as a starting point and do your own research.

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Protected: My observations of Capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park. Blog for Animal Behaviour Course MOOC …

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