Where Can I Pet A Capybara in England?

These are some Wildlife Parks where you can feed and sometimes pet capybaras.

Most zoos in Britain do not allow visitors to enter the capybara enclosure.

A very few zoos offer “animal encounters” where you can feed or pet the capybaras. Although some of these zoos only say that you can feed the capybaras, some people have been able to pet the capybaras as well.

jinx Shepreth

Jinx at Shepreth Wildlife Park

Having spent the past eight years studying and observing capybaras and their behaviour I have come to some conclusions: firstly, capybaras bonded with humans seem to suffer so I believe it is very important for every capybara to be bonded with other members of their species. Capybaras are an exceptionally social and gregarious species and should not be kept alone in a separate enclosure away from other capybaras.

I see no justification for a policy which prevents keepers from petting/touching the capybaras in their care. Quite the opposite. It is very important that animals/capybaras trust their keepers. One way of building up trust is for the keeper to have positive interactions with the animals/capybaras in their care. Capybaras love to be petted If they have been socialised to humans early in their life. This socialisation should take place during what is called the “critical period” which in most species occurs at about 4 to 6 weeks of age.

Building up trust and having direct contact with the capybaras allows keepers to perform healthcare procedures, and other actions, much more easily and reduces the amount of stress animals experience in these situations.

I suspect one of the reasons zoos restrict access to the capybaras, and prefer visitors to feed rather than pet the capybaras, is a fear of litigation if the capybara accidentally bites the human.

Shepreth Wildlife Park, near Cambridge.

Shepreth Wildlife Park may offer the best experience for interacting with capybaras.

Jinx Shepreth 2

Jinx at Shepreth Wildlife Park

They have four capybaras: Jinx, Daze, Hex and Hoodoo.

In the words of their capybara keeper: “Hex and Hoodoo are sisters, aged 2. They are new to the park, fairly shy, and choose not to be involved in the public encounters, but watch from a distance. Daze is a male, aged 5. He is also relatively new, and initially also watched encounters from a distance, but recently has come closer, and is now able to be fed from a bowl held by visitors, but we do not touch him yet.

Jinx is the star! She is 5 years old, and is very friendly. She certainly seems to enjoy being scratched around the ears, chest and jawline, and will position herself to get the scratches right where she wants them.

Shepreth Wildlife Park offers encounters with several of our species. We believe that having the chance to experience wild animals close up allows visitors to build empathy with individual characters, which then translates to a appreciation for the species as a whole. It also allows us to fundraise for essential conservation work at home and abroad.

We offer encounters only with species that are suited to the experience, and always with ethics committee approval. The capybaras have proven an ideal species for this and the experience has proved popular with visitors. ”

The charge is £50, which as mentioned above allows the park to fundraise for essential conservation work.

For more information:  https://sheprethwildlifepark.co.uk/

Tommy Lawn Cotswold 2

Tommy Lawn petting British Capybaras at a wildlife park that says they don’t do animal encounters!

Beale Park, north-west of Reading, Berkshire.

Beale Park offers an attractively priced sponsorship scheme which includes the opportunity to meet the capybara keeper by prior arrangement; they are considering including animal encounters in the future. Beale Park has two capybaras, Sharon and Gary, who are 3 years old and are brother and sister;  like many male capybaras, Gary has been neutered.  The sponsorship scheme costs £35, lasts for 12 months and includes one free entry to the wildlife park.

For more information:  https://www.bealepark.org.uk/support-us/animal-adoptions/

Cotswold Wildlife Park, at Burford, Oxfordshire

10% Cotswold wildlife Park 2019

Capybaras at Cotswold Wildlife Park

Cotswold Wildlife Park has 4 capybaras, two five-year-old adults, Bell and Olly, born 14 January 2014 and 18 December 2014 respectively. The two pups, Apple and Kiwi are 11 months old and were born on 5 August 2018.

Cotswold wildlife Park offers a 30 minute animal encounter where you can feed both the capybaras and tapirs together. This is a strictly non-touching experience! Even the keepers do not touch the capybaras.

The encounter lasts 30 minutes and cost £50 per person.  https://www.cotswoldwildlifepark.co.uk/get-involved/animal-encounters/

Tommy Lawn Cotswold

Tommy Lawn at a British wildlife park

 

Drusillas Park, Alfriston, East Sussex

At Drusillas Park you can feed the animals in their “close encounter experiences”. The price for this experience is £80 on a weekday during term time, and £95 at the weekend or during school holidays. If there is a second person there is an extra £45 charge.

https://www.drusillas.co.uk/

 

Thank you very much Tommy Lawn and Finnick Howard for their contribution to this blog.

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在动物园与圈养环境中饲育水豚时该注意的的饲养条件、展场围栏的设计与动物福利

设计水豚的展场围栏时,最应该注意的是要提供一个环境让水豚们可以展现在自然栖地中原有的行为。其中两个最重要的条件是必须有一个大的水池,以及可以让牠们自由吃草的环境。

25 Mar 2015 005 15% crop Romeo eating grass

Romeo and Tuff’n love fresh grass. They have absolutely no desire for junk food

假设要容纳一家族约 15 只水豚,展场围栏的圈地大小至少要一英亩或半公顷(约 5000 平方公尺),并依照水豚家族的成员多寡来做调整。圈地环境必须要做得像野生水豚的自然环境。

WN Crop Aoba Milk Pond PLay 05 Jul 2017 055

水豚是半水栖的动物,牠们喜欢在水里活动和玩耍,因此一定要设置一个大水池。并且,水豚是草食性动物,牠们以青草为主食,所以务必要让水豚们随时可以自由地吃草。

 

此外,照顾水豚的饲育员必须有兴趣并且愿意瞭解水豚的自然行为以提供牠们应该享有的动物福利。他们必须花些时间观察水豚,如此才能判別水豚行为举止背后的含意,并了解每只水豚在群体中的关系,这些讯息能帮助饲育员管理水豚并提供最好的照顾,避免水豚互相争斗。饲育员应该要定期观察水豚的状态、体型大小/体重以及毛发的状态等,如此一来,当水豚的健康出了状况时,就能及早发现,及早治疗。

 

每只水豚都应该有自己的进食所来确保各个都有足够的食物可吃。如果群体中的水豚必须争夺食物,这将会导致攻击性的行为产生。一旦这种行为在家族成员中成型,将很难彻底根绝。基於这个理由,饲主应该要尽最大的努力让水豚不需要竞争食物便可以自在的进食。

 

被圈养的水豚家族中,雌性水豚会形成阶级组织,在这个过程中会导致雌水豚产生攻击行为。雄性水豚间有明显的阶级区分,因此牠们会对其他雄性水豚有强烈的攻击性,即使是自己的后代也不例外。虽然可以透过绝育的方式来控制雄性水豚的攻击行为,但并不能保证百分百成功。在没有细心管理的情况下,攻击行为可能会导致严重的伤害。

 

当有水豚受到严重伤害时,牠们应该被隔离到其他的围栏中进行疗养。一旦这种状况发生,受伤的水豚几乎不可能再重新融入原本的家族。因为受伤的水豚很有可能受到在阶级组织中地位仅次于牠的其他水豚攻击。

改善圈养环境:包括环境与感知上的强化,强化的目的是确保被圈养的动物能健康快乐地生活。丰富并增进圈地的环境条件能让居住在其中的水豚拥有选择性,过着有乐趣的生活并充满活力,并且能展现牠们自然的习性。

 

圈地的自然环境改善包括:

Romeo swimming

建造一个大水池。水豚必须能自由进出水池。水池的大小至少为 4 公尺 x 8 公尺,并根据水豚家族的成员多寡做调整。原则上水池的深度应该要有 1.3 公尺,但是某些地方应该为 0.3 或 0.6 公尺的浅滩,让水豚可以浸泡在池水中休息。天气炎热的时候,水豚会进入池水中调节体温,保持身体清凉。遇到危险的时候,牠们也会躲到水中避难。被圈养的水豚可能会因为受到追逐而需要进到水中躲避攻击。此外,当水豚在受伤的状态下,也许是牙齿的根部断裂了(水豚具有高冠齿,能一直持续生长。破损的牙齿只要两个多星期就能长回来),此时居於弱势的水豚会躲到水中寻求保护。

empty pond who stole

遮蔽处:圈地中必须有可以躲避日晒雨淋的遮蔽处,可以是林荫或灌木丛,也可以是人造的建筑物。

 

处於寒冷气候的圈地:适合水豚生活的气候环境温度至少要在摄氏 22 度以上。如果所在地的冬天气候寒冷,圈地中必须设置具有加热器的遮蔽处,避免水豚受寒或冻伤。

 

草地:吃草是水豚不可或缺的日常活动。经过 2500 万年的演化,水豚的消化系统适应了以青草为主的食物,这样的食物热量低并且提供丰富的纤维素。在南美洲的自然栖地中,水豚以青草、水生植物、鼠尾草属植物为食,也会咀嚼灌木或树木的树皮。为了维持牙齿的健康状态,水豚必须咀嚼粗糙的树皮来控制牙齿的生长。在被圈养的水豚之中,曾有数起死亡案例是因为以质地柔软的食物为主而无法磨牙而导致。被圈养的动物必须要能展现自然习性才能健康成长,而吃草是水豚最重要的其中一项习性。水豚并没有演化出一日两餐的习性,牠们必须要能肚子饿了就可以自己去寻觅青草或其他适合的食物来吃。

Juanita eating grass

饮食:可以提供适当的饲料来作为补充。如果圈地中青草的份量不足以提供水豚的每日所需,则可以用其他绿色的叶类,如甘蓝叶、莴苣等可食的蔬菜叶补充。糖分含量高的蔬果不适合作为水豚的食物,此外也不应该餵食红萝卜,因为红萝卜含有丰富的维生素 A,会导致水豚的肝脏受损。在日本,许多幼年夭折的水豚正是由于肝脏受损。基於这些理由,我们也不应该餵食水果,因为水果的糖分太高了。但是可以餵食一些合适的枝叶,例如野生无花果树的枝叶。水豚喜欢啃树皮因为树皮含有丰富的营养,而且啃树皮对水豚的牙齿好处多多。Bio 3 或 Bene-Bac 之类的益生菌可以缓和轻微的腹泻。

 

适当的植被:包括枝叶或棕榈叶,或是柔软的树叶,当水豚休息或睡觉时可以作为铺垫。水豚喜欢在树枝或棕榈叶等植物上摩擦肛门和鼻子上的气味腺来标示领地。如之前所述,水豚需要咀嚼一些质地粗糙的植物,像是树枝或棕榈叶来维持牙齿的健康。

WN scent marking capybara straddling plant for a blog

最重要的是,被圈养的动物必须能展现自然的习性。参观的民众所看到的应该是动物们在自然栖地中原本的生态。

 

被圈养的动物可能会因为单调的生活而产生压力。为了避免单调乏味与压力,圈地应该提供感知与娱乐活动来刺激水豚的心智,鼓励水豚多活动以维持身体健康。

 

改善环境的活动包括以上所述提供适当的植被,另外也可以透过人工的方式刻意塑造自然环境。例如,可以透过充满乐趣的方式来提供食物,像是将饲料散落在四处,或是隐藏在不同的角落让水豚寻找觅食。也可以将竹子悬掛在圈地四周的树枝上刺激水豚寻觅。

 

上述的活动也能丰富水豚的感知,因为水豚能从活动中学习解决问题以获得食物奖励。

 

丰富感官与社交:水豚是高度社交与群居的物种,不能单独饲养在家中或围栏里。被单独饲养的水豚会产生极大的压力,导致行为与性格转变。我们可以透过分析水豚体内的压力荷尔蒙如皮脂醇的含量来判別压力等级。极度的压力会导致脑部结构改变并造成水豚提早夭折。

 

被饲养的水豚必须和人类有良好正向的互动才能活得健康快乐。

 

如果动物园的访客能进入水豚的围栏,围栏当中必须设置一个访客不能进入的区域。这样的设计让水豚能选择是否想待在人类访客的身边。如果环境中没有选择,水豚可能会因此产生压力。

 

园方应该注意访客的行为,确保他们没有戏弄或惊吓水豚的举动。

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泥巴:水豚喜欢在泥巴里打滚。这个行为对牠们的皮肤有好处,能帮助去除螨虫与蝨子。泥巴能带给水豚乐趣与放松。圈地中的水豚应该保有滚泥巴的这个自然行为。

 

好的动物园会将动物福利放在第一位。我们可以采取以动物行为为出发点而设计的饲育方法来管理园中的动物,借此提供完善的动物福利。这意味着不将焦点放在提供什么给动物,而是从观察动物的行为中来了解牠们的需求。动物所展现出的一切行为都有含意,理解这些行为能帮助我们知道这时动物需要的是什么。

 

采取以动物行为为基础的饲育方法能提供动物福利的所有要素,像是健康的身体、良好的心理状态,以及展现自然的习性。除了设计并丰富展场环境,我们也必须确保人类与动物有良好的互动。展场环境与饲养方式必须提供选择性,让动物们能对自己的生命、周遭环境与日常活动保留一些控制权,仿佛牠们就生活在野外的栖地一样。

 

要提供园内动物良好的动物福利,另一个不可或缺的要素就是人类与动物之间正向的互动。园内的动物依赖我们提供所有日常所需:食物、遮蔽处、环境改善、交配机会与陪伴照顾。如果我们与动物互动的方式是不理不睬、否定消极、无法预测或带有攻击性,久而久之将会对动物带来巨大的精神压力。

 

我们必须时时留意自己的行为,了解这些举止会对动物带来怎样的影响。

 

 

基本的动物福利协定包含五大自由:

 

免於饥渴的自由:随时都能获得新鲜的饮水与食物以维持健康活力。

 

免於不适的自由:提供动物适当的环境,包括庇护所与舒适的休息区。

 

免於疼痛、伤害或疾病的自由:提供及时的诊断与治疗。

 

展现正常行为的自由:提供足够的空间、适当的设施与同种类动物的陪伴。

 

免於害怕与痛苦的自由:确保动物得到良好的生活条件与对待,避免遭受精神上的痛苦。

 

五大领域:1965 年,为了改善农场动物(像是应用于农业的所有动物)的处境,於是才发展出「五大自由」。「五大自由」仅强调人类的基本义务,并没有进一步确保被圈养与动物园中饲养的动物所该拥有的福利。我们需要提供这些动物愉快与正向的生活。为了让这个面向更完善,纽西兰的动物福利科学家大卫•梅勒(David Mellor)提出「五大领域」。「五大领域」的目标是要确保我们所饲养的动物拥有健全的身体与心理状态,这正是动物福利的根基与确保被圈养动物健康快乐不可或缺的基本条件。

 

2009 年,动物学家与动物福利科学家维琪•梅尔菲(Vicky A. Melfi)为动物园动物福利的知识与方法定出三个主要的分歧点,这里列举出与水豚饲育有关的其中两点:

 

第一:我们倾向於将焦点放在福利不好的指标上,并认为没有这些指标就等同于福利良好。然而,没有不好的福利不一定表示提供良好的福利。

 

第二:我们应该从该物种的需求而非从人类的观点来看待饲养动物的处所与饲养方式。

 

传统上,动物园是依照人类对于干净居住环境的标準来建造出符合卫生条件的展场,但是这样的环境并不符合动物的天然习性,也不能满足牠们的心理需求。

 

如今,好的动物园也能正视动物与人类先天习性上的不同,并依照动物的行为需求来重新打造牠们的住所。要先了解动物的行为才能提供适当的住所与饲养方式,因为这些行为是百万年来演化的结果,其中经历了一层又一层的优胜劣败,这才演化出最适合该物种的生存方式。

 

Translated by Shibachi

在動物園與圈養環境中飼育水豚時該注意的的飼養條件、展場圍欄的設計與動物福利

設計水豚的展場圍欄時,最應該注意的是要提供一個環境讓水豚們可以展現在自然棲地中原有的行為。其中兩個最重要的條件是必須有一個大的水池,以及可以讓牠們自由吃草的環境。

25 Mar 2015 005 15% crop Romeo eating grass

Romeo and Tuff’n love fresh grass. They have absolutely no desire for junk food

假設要容納一家族約 15 隻水豚,展場圍欄的圈地大小至少要一英畝或半公頃(約 5000 平方公尺),並依照水豚家族的成員多寡來做調整。圈地環境必須要做得像野生水豚的自然環境。

WN Crop Aoba Milk Pond PLay 05 Jul 2017 055

水豚是半水棲的動物,牠們喜歡在水裡活動和玩耍,因此一定要設置一個大水池。並且,水豚是草食性動物,牠們以青草為主食,所以務必要讓水豚們隨時可以自由地吃草。

 

此外,照顧水豚的飼育員必須有興趣並且願意瞭解水豚的自然行為以提供牠們應該享有的動物福利。他們必須花些時間觀察水豚,如此才能判別水豚行為舉止背後的含意,並了解每隻水豚在群體中的關係,這些訊息能幫助飼育員管理水豚並提供最好的照顧,避免水豚互相爭鬥。飼育員應該要定期觀察水豚的狀態、體型大小/體重以及毛髮的狀態等,如此一來,當水豚的健康出了狀況時,就能及早發現,及早治療。

 

每隻水豚都應該有自己的進食所來確保各個都有足夠的食物可吃。如果群體中的水豚必須爭奪食物,這將會導致攻擊性的行為產生。一旦這種行為在家族成員中成型,將很難徹底根絕。基於這個理由,飼主應該要盡最大的努力讓水豚不需要競爭食物便可以自在的進食。

 

被圈養的水豚家族中,雌性水豚會形成階級組織,在這個過程中會導致雌水豚產生攻擊行為。雄性水豚間有明顯的階級區分,因此牠們會對其他雄性水豚有強烈的攻擊性,即使是自己的後代也不例外。雖然可以透過絕育的方式來控制雄性水豚的攻擊行為,但並不能保證百分百成功。在沒有細心管理的情況下,攻擊行為可能會導致嚴重的傷害。

 

當有水豚受到嚴重傷害時,牠們應該被隔離到其他的圍欄中進行療養。一旦這種狀況發生,受傷的水豚幾乎不可能再重新融入原本的家族。因為受傷的水豚很有可能受到在階級組織中地位僅次於牠的其他水豚攻擊。

改善圈養環境:包括環境與感知上的強化,強化的目的是確保被圈養的動物能健康快樂地生活。豐富並增進圈地的環境條件能讓居住在其中的水豚擁有選擇性,過著有樂趣的生活並充滿活力,並且能展現牠們自然的習性。

 

圈地的自然環境改善包括:

Romeo swimming

建造一個大水池。水豚必須能自由進出水池。水池的大小至少為 4 公尺 x 8 公尺,並根據水豚家族的成員多寡做調整。原則上水池的深度應該要有 1.3 公尺,但是某些地方應該為 0.3 或 0.6 公尺的淺灘,讓水豚可以浸泡在池水中休息。天氣炎熱的時候,水豚會進入池水中調節體溫,保持身體清涼。遇到危險的時候,牠們也會躲到水中避難。被圈養的水豚可能會因為受到追逐而需要進到水中躲避攻擊。此外,當水豚在受傷的狀態下,也許是牙齒的根部斷裂了(水豚具有高冠齒,能一直持續生長。破損的牙齒只要兩個多星期就能長回來),此時居於弱勢的水豚會躲到水中尋求保護。

empty pond who stole

遮蔽處:圈地中必須有可以躲避日曬雨淋的遮蔽處,可以是林蔭或灌木叢,也可以是人造的建築物。

 

處於寒冷氣候的圈地:適合水豚生活的氣候環境溫度至少要在攝氏 22 度以上。如果所在地的冬天氣候寒冷,圈地中必須設置具有加熱器的遮蔽處,避免水豚受寒或凍傷。

 

草地:吃草是水豚不可或缺的日常活動。經過 2500 萬年的演化,水豚的消化系統適應了以青草為主的食物,這樣的食物熱量低並且提供豐富的纖維素。在南美洲的自然棲地中,水豚以青草、水生植物、鼠尾草屬植物為食,也會咀嚼灌木或樹木的樹皮。為了維持牙齒的健康狀態,水豚必須咀嚼粗糙的樹皮來控制牙齒的生長。在被圈養的水豚之中,曾有數起死亡案例是因為以質地柔軟的食物為主而無法磨牙而導致。被圈養的動物必須要能展現自然習性才能健康成長,而吃草是水豚最重要的其中一項習性。水豚並沒有演化出一日兩餐的習性,牠們必須要能肚子餓了就可以自己去尋覓青草或其他適合的食物來吃。

Juanita eating grass

飲食:可以提供適當的飼料來作為補充。如果圈地中青草的份量不足以提供水豚的每日所需,則可以用其他綠色的葉類,如甘藍葉、萵苣等可食的蔬菜葉補充。糖分含量高的蔬果不適合作為水豚的食物,此外也不應該餵食紅蘿蔔,因為紅蘿蔔含有豐富的維生素 A,會導致水豚的肝臟受損。在日本,許多幼年夭折的水豚正是由於肝臟受損。基於這些理由,我們也不應該餵食水果,因為水果的糖分太高了。但是可以餵食一些合適的枝葉,例如野生無花果樹的枝葉。水豚喜歡啃樹皮因為樹皮含有豐富的營養,而且啃樹皮對水豚的牙齒好處多多。Bio 3 或 Bene-Bac 之類的益生菌可以緩和輕微的腹瀉。

 

適當的植被:包括枝葉或棕櫚葉,或是柔軟的樹葉,當水豚休息或睡覺時可以作為鋪墊。水豚喜歡在樹枝或棕櫚葉等植物上摩擦肛門和鼻子上的氣味腺來標示領地。如之前所述,水豚需要咀嚼一些質地粗糙的植物,像是樹枝或棕櫚葉來維持牙齒的健康。

WN scent marking capybara straddling plant for a blog

最重要的是,被圈養的動物必須能展現自然的習性。參觀的民眾所看到的應該是動物們在自然棲地中原本的生態。

 

被圈養的動物可能會因為單調的生活而產生壓力。為了避免單調乏味與壓力,圈地應該提供感知與娛樂活動來刺激水豚的心智,鼓勵水豚多活動以維持身體健康。

 

改善環境的活動包括以上所述提供適當的植被,另外也可以透過人工的方式刻意塑造自然環境。例如,可以透過充滿樂趣的方式來提供食物,像是將飼料散落在四處,或是隱藏在不同的角落讓水豚尋找覓食。也可以將竹子懸掛在圈地四周的樹枝上刺激水豚尋覓。

 

上述的活動也能豐富水豚的感知,因為水豚能從活動中學習解決問題以獲得食物獎勵。

 

豐富感官與社交:水豚是高度社交與群居的物種,不能單獨飼養在家中或圍欄裡。被單獨飼養的水豚會產生極大的壓力,導致行為與性格轉變。我們可以透過分析水豚體內的壓力荷爾蒙如皮脂醇的含量來判別壓力等級。極度的壓力會導致腦部結構改變並造成水豚提早夭折。

 

被飼養的水豚必須和人類有良好正向的互動才能活得健康快樂。

 

如果動物園的訪客能進入水豚的圍欄,圍欄當中必須設置一個訪客不能進入的區域。這樣的設計讓水豚能選擇是否想待在人類訪客的身邊。如果環境中沒有選擇,水豚可能會因此產生壓力。

 

園方應該注意訪客的行為,確保他們沒有戲弄或驚嚇水豚的舉動。

20% May 16 2014 Mud 045

 

泥巴:水豚喜歡在泥巴裡打滾。這個行為對牠們的皮膚有好處,能幫助去除蟎蟲與蝨子。泥巴能帶給水豚樂趣與放鬆。圈地中的水豚應該保有滾泥巴的這個自然行為。

 

好的動物園會將動物福利放在第一位。我們可以採取以動物行為為出發點而設計的飼育方法來管理園中的動物,藉此提供完善的動物福利。這意味著不將焦點放在提供什麼給動物,而是從觀察動物的行為中來了解牠們的需求。動物所展現出的一切行為都有含意,理解這些行為能幫助我們知道這時動物需要的是什麼。

 

採取以動物行為為基礎的飼育方法能提供動物福利的所有要素,像是健康的身體、良好的心理狀態,以及展現自然的習性。除了設計並豐富展場環境,我們也必須確保人類與動物有良好的互動。展場環境與飼養方式必須提供選擇性,讓動物們能對自己的生命、周遭環境與日常活動保留一些控制權,彷彿牠們就生活在野外的棲地一樣。

 

要提供園內動物良好的動物福利,另一個不可或缺的要素就是人類與動物之間正向的互動。園內的動物依賴我們提供所有日常所需:食物、遮蔽處、環境改善、交配機會與陪伴照顧。如果我們與動物互動的方式是不理不睬、否定消極、無法預測或帶有攻擊性,久而久之將會對動物帶來巨大的精神壓力。

 

我們必須時時留意自己的行為,了解這些舉止會對動物帶來怎樣的影響。

 

 

 

 

基本的動物福利協定包含五大自由:

 

免於飢渴的自由:隨時都能獲得新鮮的飲水與食物以維持健康活力。

 

免於不適的自由:提供動物適當的環境,包括庇護所與舒適的休息區。

 

免於疼痛、傷害或疾病的自由:提供及時的診斷與治療。

 

展現正常行為的自由:提供足夠的空間、適當的設施與同種類動物的陪伴。

 

免於害怕與痛苦的自由:確保動物得到良好的生活條件與對待,避免遭受精神上的痛苦。

 

五大領域:1965 年,為了改善農場動物(像是應用於農業的所有動物)的處境,於是才發展出「五大自由」。「五大自由」僅強調人類的基本義務,並沒有進一步確保被圈養與動物園中飼養的動物所該擁有的福利。我們需要提供這些動物愉快與正向的生活。為了讓這個面向更完善,紐西蘭的動物福利科學家大衛·梅勒(David Mellor)提出「五大領域」。「五大領域」的目標是要確保我們所飼養的動物擁有健全的身體與心理狀態,這正是動物福利的根基與確保被圈養動物健康快樂不可或缺的基本條件。

 

2009 年,動物學家與動物福利科學家維琪·梅爾菲(Vicky A. Melfi)為動物園動物福利的知識與方法定出三個主要的分歧點,這裡列舉出與水豚飼育有關的其中兩點:

 

第一:我們傾向於將焦點放在福利不好的指標上,並認為沒有這些指標就等同於福利良好。然而,沒有不好的福利不一定表示提供良好的福利。

 

第二:我們應該從該物種的需求而非從人類的觀點來看待飼養動物的處所與飼養方式。

 

傳統上,動物園是依照人類對於乾淨居住環境的標準來建造出符合衛生條件的展場,但是這樣的環境並不符合動物的天然習性,也不能滿足牠們的心理需求。

 

如今,好的動物園也能正視動物與人類先天習性上的不同,並依照動物的行為需求來重新打造牠們的住所。要先了解動物的行為才能提供適當的住所與飼養方式,因為這些行為是百萬年來演化的結果,其中經歷了一層又一層的優勝劣敗,這才演化出最適合該物種的生存方式。

 

Translated by Shibachi

Stories about Clever, Entertaining, Amusing and Intelligent Capybaras. カピバラの面白くて面白い話

These are some of the interesting and amusing capybara behaviours I, or my friends, have witnessed. I have captured all the behaviours that I personally have witnessed on video:

I have friends in Argentina who rescued a baby capybara from her mother’s womb after hunters killed her mother. When my friend became pregnant her capybara, named Juanita, was the first to know. Juanita was aged about 2 1/2 years at the time and started behaving like a baby again, uttering the vocalisations she used to make when she was a baby and sucking on my friend’s finger the way she had done as a baby. My assumption, regarding this behaviour, is that this was Juanita’s way of saying to my friend “you don’t need another baby, I can be your baby again”. The capybaras I know frequently look and act as if they are jealous, often very jealous, and I suspect Juanita did not want to share my friend’s love with another baby.

IMG_20171114_142825

Juanita looks blissful in the arms of Juan who rescued her

 

I have friends who live with 2 capybaras, Romeo and Tuff’n. Tuff’n is highly intelligent and devises a number of interesting and amusing behaviours. Romeo is very emotional and well-behaved.

Romeo is a heart stealer. He has a look which melts my heart. It is a rather sad and bewildered look when something happens which makes him unhappy. Romeo gives this look when Tuff’n outwits him. For example, if Romeo and Tuff’n go into the bedroom together in the hopes of being petted on the bed, and as Romeo prepares to jump on the bed from the far side Tuff’n will leap onto the bed right under Romeo’s nose before Romeo has even left the ground. My heart goes out to Romeo when he gives me this look, I just want to make him happy.

 

When visitors come to my friends’ home to see the capybaras in the swimming pool, Tuff’n amuses himself by swimming alongside where the visitors are standing and splashing them with his powerful, partially webbed paw. He started doing this when he was about 4 years old. Some months later I caught Romeo in the pool practising this technique when he thought no one else was around.

 

 

Romeo and Tuff’n get a peanut reward every time they use the potty pan in the bathroom rather than marking their territory around the house with urine.

Tuff’n started going into the bathroom and onto the potty pan and pretending to “potty” (defecate) by dancing around to make a loud, very audible noise as his toes clattered against the metal pan, in the hopes of deceiving the humans into thinking that he is “performing” and giving him a reward. He now gets a double reward for initiative! But unlike humans, and especially human children, he doesn’t take advantage of this by continually dancing around on the potty pan in the hopes of endless rewards. Some days he doesn’t do this behaviour at all.

WN scent marking capybara straddling plant for a blog

Scent marking behaviour in capybaras is more common in males than females, but during courtship males and females mark with equal frequency and use both glands. A typical marking sequence for males involves rubbing the morrillo against a shrub or twig then straddling the plant, pressing the anal pocket onto it and sometimes simultaneously urinating on the plant.

 

Rodent species mark their territory with urine; it is the equivalent of a business card and lets other capybaras/rodents know many useful things about their health, status, reproductive state, etc. It is also a way of marking their territory. Some repetitive marking in “inappropriate places” may be a sign of insecurity as the capybara tries to establish his authority in an area/territory (for example the bed) where he feels vulnerable because his priority there is under threat.

Having watched the humans enjoying life in the pool relaxing on their li–los, Tuff’n decided he wanted the same experience. A plastic li–lo would barely last a second when faced with those sharp, capybara teeth, so Tuff’n moved his cushion to the edge of the pool, jumped in, swam over to the cushion and pulled it in to the pool. He then manoeuvred his body onto the cushion and gently floated around.

 

Tuff’n loves peanuts and in the evenings a small metal bowl appears into which some peanuts are placed. When Tuff’n finishes these he gently lifts the bowl and lets it fall back onto the sofa to indicate that the bowl is empty and he wants a refill! If more peanuts do not appear Tuff’n lifts the bowl higher, and then higher still and eventually, if still no peanuts have appeared, he chucks the bowl high in the air and lets it clatter very noisily to the floor.

Here’s the video of Tuff’n cutely and patiently asking for more peanuts:

 

Choco, a neutered male capybara at Nagasaki Bio Park, pioneered a number of new behaviours. Choco was very intelligent and inventive. The senior capybaras in the hierarchy did not like neutered males (presumably because, being so closely related to the females in the herd, they should have left the herd at about 1-year-old as they would have done in their natural habitat).

In winter, Choco and other junior capybaras, were denied access to the Onsen bath by the senior capybaras in the hierarchy. In order to enjoy the Onsen experience Choco began jumping up into the wooden water channel which carries the hot water to the Onsen, where he spent long periods of time enjoying the hot water. At least 6 other capybaras who had been denied access to the Onsen started copying his behaviour.

 

Interestingly, in some other species including meerkats, it is often lower ranking males who are the most inventive. In the case of meerkats, one of the ethologists who is part of Prof. Tim Clutton Brack’s team who have spent the last 26 years observing meerkat colonies in the Kalahari desert in Africa, put a scorpion in a specially prepared plastic container, to test the cognitive abilities of meerkats. Scorpions are a favourite food of meerkats. In order to reach the scorpion the meerkat had to turn the lid of the plastic container. Most of the meerkats tried to get at the scorpion through the see-through sides of the container which had small holes. But a few clever, low ranking males, worked out how to turn the lid using the upright struts.

Prune, one of Maple's five pups chewing on a stick,

Young Prune

 

Choco learnt how to open the gate to the capybara enclosure and often went out to graze. Ryoko copied him and when she opened the gate, her younger much smaller sister would move forward to wedge the gate open before it shut, allowing Ryoko and a procession of capybaras to escape; a good example of capybara teamwork. A year later I noticed young Prune, a one and a half year-old very low ranking male, trying to open the gate. He had obviously watched Choco and Ryoko and understood exactly the technique for opening the gate, but being so young he was too small to be able to pull the handle down and step backwards pulling the gate open, all at the same time.

In this video, Choco amazes the visitors by opening the entrance gate and going out to greet them:

 

When Choco was one-year-old and at the bottom of the hierarchy and not getting enough to eat, he started going inside the monkey house and eating the Capuchin monkeys’ food. Amazingly the monkeys tolerated him, but when other capybaras tried to do this they were chased away. Choco was fearless and I wonder if this was part of the reason for the monkeys accepting him. From my observations, it always seemed to me that the monkeys taunted and chased those capybaras who reacted most and got most upset by the monkeys behaviour (rather like human teenagers might). Choco is very calm. Even when Hinase chases him Choco only moves a minimal distance and quickly returns to the spot he occupied before Hinase started chasing him. Brother Donut, by contrast, nervously jumps up as Hinase approaches and runs away and does not return.

 

 

As the senior capybaras in the hierarchy often chased Choco, he used to sleep on the laps of visitors knowing that he was safe from attack on a human lap. The visitors absolutely adored this and Choco became the most popular capybara at Nagasaki Bio Park.

 

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!

 

Unlike some species capybaras do not groom each other. However, one of the most intelligent capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park, Aoba, understands the advantage of having “friends in high places” and tries to befriend the senior capybaras in the hierarchy. In the case of Hinase, current number 1 in the hierarchy, Aoba’s strategy has been successful. Sometimes when in the pond Aoba nibbles Hinase’s ear which Hinase finds supremely pleasurable. Hinase rolls over, her hair rising in ecstasy, and she looks absolutely blissful. I have never seen any other adult capybara nibble another capybara’s ear. Capybaras love having their ears nibbled by baby capybaras or rubbed by humans.

 

 

When Hinase received a very painful bite on her mouth she seemed to derive some relief from the pain by rubbing her morillo. Aoba noticed this and went over to Hinase and rubbed her chin back and forth over Hinase’s morillo. As reward, Aoba is now frequently the only capybara Hinase and Aoba’s mother, Momiji, who is number 2 in the hierarchy, allow into the Onsen to enjoy the warm water in winter. Hinase and Momiji sit under the Onsen shower at the entrance to the Onsen controlling access. On many days they refuse entry to all the other capybaras in the herd! When Donguri was number 1 in the hierarchy she allowed most of the capybaras to come into the Onsen.

 

 

Capybaras can be very playful and as you would expect some capybaras are more playful than others. One of the most playful capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park was Donguri, despite being the oldest capybara in the herd at 10 1/2 years and number 1 in the hierarchy. Hinase and Momiji, the current numbers 1 and 2 in the Bio Park hierarchy, go into the pond together every day and nuzzle and play. They often ride piggyback on each other’s backs in the pond; the keepers call this “surfing”.

You can see Hinase riding piggyback on Momiji in this video:

 

Capybaras also do backwards somersaults in the pond. Sometimes the somersaults are simply capybaras being playful but sometimes this behaviour is an act of frustration or impatience, often when visitors tease the capybaras by offering them a branch of bamboo, when they are in the pond, but withdraw the bamboo as the capybara leans forward to eat it.

Hinase does a backward somersault in this video:

Male capybaras seem not to discriminate against older females, unlike human males! The male capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park seemed to find Donguri one of the most attractive female capybara in the herd despite being the oldest capybara by several years; she was 10 1/2 years old. A friend of mine who was a capybara keeper in a zoo in France for 15 years said their “matriarch” gave birth to 3 pups when she was aged 12, and a deformed pup who did not survive, when she was 15 years old. She lived to be 17 years old.

It is very interesting how different capybaras adopt different strategies and behaviours to rise in the hierarchy or gain access to resources: food, mating rights or other rewarding experiences.

 

I have several friends who keep capybaras and rats as companion animals. From both my and their observations I would say capybaras are extremely sensitive emotionally, and compassionate. There has been a lot of rigourous scientific research showing that rats show compassion and will avoid doing something which gives them pleasure if another rat suffers a painful stimulus as a result.

When I, or my friends, have been very upset or injured their capybaras have sensed this and been extra affectionate. Capybaras seem able to sense which part of the body has been injured and is painful. If my friends are sick the capybaras they live with will spend all day on the bed beside them.

I would say that capybaras may be more compassionate and sensitive emotionally than many/most humans. Perhaps this is in part due to their higher olfactory intelligence. When we are upset our body produces chemicals, like the stress hormone cortisol, which capybaras can smell with their very superior sense of smell.

WN 40% Choco Marc's lap from video snapshot 01

Choco sleeping on Marc’s lap.  Marc felt so privileged

Humans and capybaras are distantly related; humans and rodents diverged about 75 million years ago. We are all mammals. There is evolutionary continuity between all mammal species, indeed between all animals.

The pet capybaras I know understand many words and phrases pertaining to food or activities they enjoy.

In this video Romeo and Tuff’n are asked whether they would like their corn now. Tuff’n says “yes” with an emphatic bark:

 

 

Another emotion which ethologists believe animals may experience is embarrassment. One time I was watching Cream, one of Maple’s 5 pups born on April 21, 2016. She wanted to go into the Onsen to enjoy the warm water but knew she might be chased away by the senior capybaras. So instead of climbing up the steps using the main entrance to the Onsen she decided to jump onto the wall and enter at the furthest point from the main entrance. However, she misjudged her jump and slipped unceremoniously back down to the ground. The look on her face was one of embarrassment, hoping no other capybara had noticed!

Zoos in Britain with Capybaras

If anyone has any more detailed information about visiting capybaras in Britain I would be very grateful for this information. I am particularly keen to find out about zoos or petting zoos where people can interact with the capybaras. I also wonder if there are any people with pet capybaras in Britain who welcome visitors, as is often the case in America.

A few zoos may allow you into the capybara enclosure to pet or feed the capybaras but the going rate for this wonderful experience may be as high as £50. In Australia, zoos charge about AU$50 to interact with their wild animals. At Nagasaki Bio Park there is no extra charge for entering the capybara enclosure and you can stay as long as you like.

In America there are quite a few people who keep exotic animals as pets or have small petting zoos, and who welcome visitors. Often there is no specific entry charge and they rely on donations, usually $10 per person.

Shepreth Park near Cambridge charges £50 to enter the capybara enclosure and interact with their capybaras.

I was warned by one zoo, Beale Park near Reading, Berkshire, that if the weather was not to their liking the capybaras might remain inside where I would not be able to see them, rather than coming out into their enclosure. I suspect this will be true at quite a few zoos in Britain.

Chessington zoo allows some children to interact with the capybaras on occasional weekends if the family have paid to become members at the zoo.

WN baby capybara on mother South America

 

Below is a list of zoos in Britain which have capybaras as of March 2019:

ALFRISTON / Drusillas Zoo Park
AMAZONAZO / AmazonaZoo
BASILDON / Beale Park
BEKESBRNE / Howletts Wild Animal Park
BELFAST / Belfast Zoological Gardens
BIRMNGHAM / Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park
BLACKPOOL / Blackpool Zoo
BRANTON / Yorkshire Wildlife Park
BRENT LOG / Hanwell Zoo
BURFORD / Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens
CHESINGTN / Chessington World of Adventures, Ltd.
CHESTER / North of England Zoological Society
COMBE MAR / Combe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park
DARTMOOR / Dartmoor Zoological Park
DUDLEY / Dudley Zoological Gardens
ESHOTTHEU / Northumberland Country Zoo
EXMOOR / Exmoor Zoological Park
FIVE SIST / The Five Sisters Zoo Park
FOLLYFARM / Folly Farm Leisure Ltd
HAMERTON / Hamerton Zoological Park
ISL AM AD / Amazon World
KNOWSLEY / Knowsley Safari Park
LDWP / Lake District Wildlife Park
LOTHERTON / Lotherton Bird Garden
LYMPNE / Port Lympne Wild Animal Park
MALTON / Flamingo Land LTD
MARWELL / Marwell Wildlife
NEWBALL / Woodside Wildlife and Falconry Park
NEWQUAYZO / Newquay Zoo (Cornwall Animal World)
NORTHUCOL / Northumberland College
PAIGNTON / Paignton Zoo Environmental Park
REASEHEAT / Reaseheath College Animal Centre
SHEPRETH / Shepreth Wildlife Park
SHUTTLCOL / Shuttleworth College Animal Centre
SO LAKES / Safari Zoo
TAMWORTH / Drayton Manor Park Zoo
TILGATE / Tilgate Nature Centre
WILD DSCV / Wild Discovery
WOBURNLTD / Woburn Safari Park
WRAXALL / Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm

One Of My Most Interesting Blogs: Capybara Herd Behaviour; Very Interesting Capybara Psychology カピバラ群れ行動. 水豚群体行为

Comportamiento de Rebaño de Capibara. поведение стадо капибара.  Comportamento de Rebanho de Capivara.

PBS recently broadcast a documentary: “Equus, Story of the Horse”. I found this excellent documentary especially interesting because the horses’ herd behaviour seemed identical in some respects, but not all, to the capybara herd behaviour I have observed. Specifically, capybaras and horses are social animals who use emotions to communicate with each other.

SnapShot(17) JPEG WN capybaras in the wild

This emotional intelligence is one of the things which attracted me to capybaras. Capybaras (at least those capybaras who are used to people or are bonded with humans) are more sensitive to human emotions (including when you are injured or ill) than many people. People I know who have lived with rodents, including rats, as well as dogs, ALL say that the rodents are more sensitive to their emotions and more intelligent than dogs.

Research has shown that the parts of the brain which receive “olfactory signals” from the nose, also do other things, such as storing memories or provoking emotions. This explains why some smells can bring back old memories (remember Proust’s book “Remembrance of Things Past” – “A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu”, and the involuntary memories from childhood brought back by the smell of a Madeleine cake dipped in tea). This research explains why capybaras, with their vastly superior sense of smell, are able to identify people, and also peoples’ emotional state. This also explains capybaras’ emotional sensitivity and intelligence.

The leader of the herd is not necessarily the biggest, or the physically strongest, but the horse/capybara who is the strongest mentally, the horse/capybara with the personality to be a leader. In some species the leader also has to be an animal who is liked by other members of the group/herd. Donguri was just such a natural leader, very wise, intelligent, compassionate and curious. She only had to raise her nose to assert her authority; she avoided aggression. She was also very well liked by the other capybaras in her herd. Hinase, the current leader, is mentally very strong and tough minded, as is her daughter Ryoko who was destined to succeed mother, Hinase, as leader of the herd, before the tragedy surrounding her pregnancy.

Video:  How Hinase Maintains Her Authority over the Herdカピバラチーフが群れをどのようにコントロールしているか

Hinase is number 1 in the hierarchy of capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park. As she approaches, most of the capybaras sit up, alert and ready to move away quickly if they sense she will be aggressive towards them. She seems to like this behaviour which acknowledges her leadership status, and it usually means she will not chase them.

 In this video, the keeper has hidden some pellets in the palm frond among the bed of leaves. Hinase realises this and as she approaches the food Hinase barks and the other capybaras move quickly away. Hinase probably also sends out an ultrasonic communication, at a frequency inaudible to human ears, which the other capybaras react to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horses and capybaras who are not popular with other members of their herd seek out human company. Maple, at Nagasaki Bio Park, is not popular with the senior capybaras but is a favourite of the keepers. When the other capybaras go into the pond she usually stays behind, sitting beside the bamboo stall hoping to be fed. Hinase particularly dislikes Butter, Maple’s daughter, and tries to attack her, so Butter takes refuge beside humans, often sitting between the legs of visitors.

Video:  Brilliant Mother Momiji Intimidates Maple for Attacking Her Daughter Aoba    もみじが積極的なカエデから娘の青葉を守る

Maple frequently tries to attack Momiji’s daughter, Aoba. Maple’s intention is to injure Aoba, although usually Aoba manages to outrun Maple. Momiji is a brilliant mother. In this video, Momiji indicates to Maple that she is not welcome after Maple has tried to attack Aoba. Momiji never attacks Maple, she just “frog marches ” Maple away. The senior capybaras do not like Maple and you can see Hinase, leader of the herd, looking on with great interest while she eats her meal, towards the end of the video.

 Capybaras, like horses, who are not popular with their herd members, seek out humans and Maple is a favourite of the keepers, which is why the keepers never intervene to protect Aoba. However, the keepers do intervene (as in this video) when Momiji chases Maple. Most of the keepers do not spend time observing capybara behaviour, and therefore do not understand the behaviours they witness.

 

 

 

 

I wish somebody would do a scientific study deciphering the body language, olfactory signals, vocalisations (some of which are outside the range of human hearing), which capybaras use in their relationships with other capybaras, as they negotiate their position in the hierarchy and during agonistic/aggressive encounters. Momiji has a very forceful personality, and you can feel that strength as her body bristles and stiffens, when she points her nose to intimidate another capybara. Hinase’s intimidatory stance is not as obvious to me, but the other capybaras seem to know not to challenge her.

Video:  The Great Capybara Chase グレートカピバラチェイスバターとヒナーゼ

Hinase, leader of the herd at Nagasaki Bio Park, dislikes Butter. She also does not like the neutered males in her herd mating. There is a very good reason for this as these males are too closely related to the females in the herd, and should have left the herd when they were one-year-old, as they would if they were living in the wild. Hinase, of course, does not understand that the males have been neutered. The neutered males, Choco and Doughnut, only mate with Maple and Maple’s daughter Butter. In this video, Donut has been mating with Butter and Hinase is angry. She chases Butter, but Butter always manages to get away, these days.

From my observations I would say Butter does not behave the way Hinase would like her to behave, as a junior member of the herd. Hinase sees her role as leader of the herd, in part to ensure the appropriate behaviour of herd members. As she approaches a capybara, she seems to want that capybara to become alert (the equivalent of “standing to attention”), ready to move quickly away if the capybara thinks Hinase might be aggressive. This act of becoming alert is usually enough to guarantee that Hinase will leave the capybara alone.

It would be completely wrong to assume that Butter is unhappy in the herd. She understands the behaviour of the capybaras and is much, much happier than a pet capybara bonded to a human would be.

 

Observing capybaras I am very aware when there has been some communication between two capybaras, by their behaviour and the way they react. However, the nature of this communication is frequently a mystery to me as a human. Sometimes I can see the capybara’s diaphragm vibrate and I can hear an almost inaudible, vibratory sound, like the rush of wind.

(A non sequitur, but interesting: The ancestor of all modern horses, who lived some 40 million years ago, had 4 toes on his front feet and 3 toes on his hind feet, just like capybaras! Some capybaras have an enlarged toe on their front feet, the second toe from the inside of the foot. Today’s horses run on an enlarged, evolved single toe. This is in part what gives horses their speed; the fact that they barely touch the ground as they run, which reduces resistance.)

Horses faces are very expressive; 17 facial expressions have been identified in horses, one more than in dogs and 3 more than chimpanzees exhibit. Capybaras have very expressive eyes/faces. I wish someone would do the research on how many facial expressions capybaras have.

Facial expressions is a relatively new field of study, as scientists have come to realise that some species, especially mammals, have a rich repertoire of facial expressions. Facial Action Unit is a tool which maps the face muscles, and the different ways these muscles can move, and categorises what sort of expressions are exhibited when particular muscles are activated, and in what situations these expressions are exhibited. I.e. which facial muscles are moving and in which situations.

Capybaras are very gregarious, social animals and they are exceptionally sensitive emotionally. Research has shown that the limbic system, including the amygdala and the hippocampus, which are important in processing emotions, is shared between all mammals, including humans and capybaras. This means that most animal species experience similar emotional responses to situations, both unpleasant and pleasant, as we humans. We share the same ancestry as all other mammals. There is evolutionary continuity among animals. All mammals share neuroanatomical structures and neurochemical pathways that are important for feelings.

In the light of this, it is long overdue that every human should understand that animals are much more than just CUTE. We should all understand and respect animals, and treat them the way we would wish to be treated. We are so privileged to be able to share their lives.

Memories of Donguri, The Greatest Capybara Who Ever Lived ドングリの思い出 世界で最も素晴らしいカピバラ

Marc is petting Donguri in this photo; I’m not quite sure why that made her yawn!

wn donguri yawns marc pets 19 jan 2016

Donguri Yawns When Marc Pets Her 19 January 2016

Donguri was very cute today. She tends to get hungry after about 3 PM, and she becomes very impatient when she sees me talking to human visitors when I should be feeding her!

The keeper gave me and a party of very nice Taiwanese ladies some bamboo to feed to the capybaras. I gave Donguri a few bites, and then held the bamboo up in the air (out of reach of other hungry capybaras) while I chatted to one of the Taiwanese ladies.

Donguri nuzzled by Choco. Her grandson. She absolutely adored it and held her head up expectantly for quite a while after he had walked away

Donguri being nuzzled by baby Choco. Her grandson! She absolutely adored it and held her head up expectantly for quite a while after he had walked away

Donguri decided she had had enough of waiting for her bamboo and climbed up on my wheelchair to reach the bamboo, and grab a mouthful. I was really impressed that at her age, and with her slightly weak right hind leg, she even contemplated doing this, let alone was successful. She helped herself to a huge mouthful of bamboo, and she looked adorable with most of the leaves sticking out of her mouth!

Of course I don’t have a photo of any of this, unfortunately.

When she had finished the bamboo, she pointed her nose upwards to show me she was ready for some food pellets.

When I continued my conversation with the Taiwanese lady, rather than moving away, Donguri stayed right beside me, opening and closing her mouth to show me just how hungry she was.

Exceptional Donguri, Queen capybara at Nagasaki Bio Park. A wonderful, compassionate and intelligent leader. どんぐりチャン。すばらしいリーダー。思いやり、賢い、インテリジェント。そして美しいです!

Exceptional Donguri, . A wonderful, compassionate and intelligent leader. どんぐりチャン。すばらしいリーダー。思いやり、賢い、インテリジェント。そして美しいです!

I had to explain to the Taiwanese lady that Donguri thinks I have been employed by the Biopark as her personal servant and, most importantly, to feed her whenever she feels hungry, which is pretty much all the time!

 

What Happened to Ryoko Capybara and How Has That Affected Her Position in The Hierarchy? 涼子さんカピバラは8月16日木曜日の午後に部分的な流産に苦しんでいますか?

In the afternoon of Thursday, August 16, 2018 Ryoko and her sister Keiko were sitting beside the entrance gate to the capybara enclosure hoping to escape. Ryoko is the biggest capybara in the herd and her sister Keiko is by far the smallest. They are from the same litter and for the first few months they were a similar size. Because of her small size it is much easier for Keiko to escape which she frequently does. The keepers are quite happy to let her stay outside the enclosure grazing as she needs to put on weight and she never strays far.

WN 40% Ryoko 23 June 2017 005

Ryoko was heavily pregnant having mated with Kona, the breeding male capybara, at both the beginning and the end of April. I was told the keepers did not think she had become pregnant at the beginning of April. The gestation period for a capybara is generally considered to be five months, although some people believe it is four and a half months.

On seeing that Keiko had escaped the keeper, quite unnecessarily, ran over to the gate at great speed. This alarmed Ryoko who ran as fast as she could to the edge of the pond and sat there looking very upset. She then lay down and experienced three violent spasms. I was very worried that Ryoko had miscarried and when we arrived the following morning I was expecting to see her in a distressed state.

 

WN 40% Ryoko 16 Aug 2017 004

Ryoko gave birth on September 5. She gave birth to two pups one of whom was very weak and died shortly after. Ryoko is the largest capybara in the herd and was in her prime at four and a half years old. In the wild capybaras reach their prime reproducing age at 4 years and give birth to 4.2 pups on average per litter. Capybaras can give birth to up to 8 pups in one litter.

As the largest capybara in the herd, and in her prime, it might be reasonable to assume that Ryoko is also the healthiest and fittest. I had expected Ryoko to give birth to at least 3 healthy pups and very possibly 4 or 5. I believe the trauma she experienced on August 16 may have caused a partial miscarriage in which the umbilical cord attaching the weak pup (who only lived a short time) to his mother’s uterus was compromised.

WN 40% Crop Ryoko 21 September 2017 042

Being heavily pregnant for the first time must be stressful. I was also worried about an additional, unnecessary stress that Ryoko was subjected to. From about the second week in August Ryoko was being separated from the herd for 17 hours a day even though I was told she was not expected to give birth until about the middle of September at the earliest. (On one occasion Ryoko was put in her separate enclosure over an hour and a half early, presumably because the keeper on duty wanted to make a quick getaway at the end of her working day. Ryoko never presented a problem being put in her separate enclosure so subjecting her to this extra separation time was quite unacceptable.)

It is very stressful for a member of this highly social species to be separated from the herd and there is a danger that separation will undermine a capybara’s position in the hierarchy and leave her vulnerable to being attacked. On our last day Maple was aggressive to Ryoko and Ryoko swam away giving the appeasement vocalisation. Maple would never have done this before Ryoko was separated. Ryoko is number three in the hierarchy and Maple is about five in the hierarchy. It is my belief that Ryoko could safely have given birth in the main enclosure as Donguri and Ayu both did. Ryoko is a very intelligent capybara, one of the two most intelligent capybaras in the herd, and I believe she would have found a safe place to give birth.  Obviously once Ryoko gave birth she would have to be separated together with her babies to protect the babies from visitors.

In an email to the chief animal keeper I warned that I thought Ryoko might be in danger of attack because of being separated from the herd for so long. This separation could weaken her place in the hierarchy and leave her vulnerable to aggression from capybaras seeking her place in the hierarchy.

Shortly after giving birth Ryoko suffered a dramatic loss of weight. From a video made at the end of September she appeared to be almost skin and bones. It was heartbreaking to see the largest, fittest capybara in the herd reduced to this. When she was released back into the herd in the main enclosure she was attacked (I have not yet been able to ascertain which capybara or capybaras attacked her). Because of the attack she has had to be separated from the herd once again. In her separate enclosure Ryoko looked extremely stressed and unhappy. Her surviving male pup spends part of every day away from his mother mixing with the capybara herd in the main enclosure. This must have been extremely stressful for Ryoko to be separated from her very young pup.

WN Momiji with bloody nose Maple attack September 4, 2013 149

When Momiji and her babies, Choco, Doughnut and Ayu’s son Macaroni, rejoined the main herd after 12 weeks of separation before and after she gave birth, Momiji came under constant attack from Maple. It was heartrending to watch poor Momiji. Life was very stressful for her

Researchers in South America have concluded that the dangers of separation for a pregnant female capybara outweigh any possible danger to the pup if the pup is born without the mother being separated from the herd. On my first visit to the capybaras, Fujiko, was separated from the herd at least six weeks before she eventually gave birth. She was put in an enclosure out of sight of the herd which caused a great deal of stress and distress not only to Fujiko but also to members of the herd. Every afternoon her daughters, Ayu and Hinase, would sit by the boundary fence closest to where their mother was, joined by Fujiko’s mother, Donguri, all calling plaintively to her. On some occasions the entire herd would sit here calling to Fujiko.

One afternoon when I was sitting petting Donguri she suddenly stood up and called frantically, then she began to walk over to the boundary fence nearest Fujiko. As we neared the boundary fence Donguri looked up at me appealingly and I realised she wanted me to open the gate so she could be with Fujiko. It broke my heart that I did not have the authority to open the gate and that I could not explain to her how much I wanted to help her but that it was not within my power to do so. Fujiko was moved to an enclosure adjoining the main enclosure after she gave birth and remained there for a further six weeks. In addition to her own two pups, she also nursed Syu and Autumn whose mother, Aki, had died five days after giving birth. When Fujiko returned to the herd she found life very stressful having lost her place in the hierarchy. Seven months later she died.

009

Momiji after she was attacked by Maple

In 2013 Momiji found life very stressful when she was separated from the herd before and after giving birth to Choco and Doughnut. She frequently called to the herd. Her mother Donguri came and sat beside the entrance gate to her enclosure for long periods, calling softly to her. When Momiji was reunited with the herd following twelve weeks of separation the very intelligent chief animal keeper put Maple in a separate enclosure during the day for the first few weeks to prevent her from attacking Momiji. After this when Momiji and Maple were in the same enclosure Maple frequently tried to attack Momiji. Maple wanted Momiji’s place in the hierarchy and sensed that the demands of childbirth and nursing her two pups had weakened Momiji. Momiji had lost a lot of weight and was always hungry as I pointed out to the keepers. For some very strange reason there seems to be a reluctance to give a nursing mother extra food.

The demands of giving birth and nursing can undermine the health of a mother if she does not get enough to eat. Capybara babies suckle for four months; the second half of this period of lactation, i.e. the final two months place the heaviest demands on the health and fitness of the mother capybara. Momiji survived in part because of the intelligent intervention of the chief capybara keeper. (Ryoko was given no such protection by the current chief capybara keeper; whoever was attacking Ryoko was not put in a separate enclosure to protect Ryoko.) It also helped that Momiji is very fit and an incredibly strong minded capybara and her mother, Donguri, was leader of the herd. Having Donguri as her mother ensured that Momiji could always share her mother’s food trough.

WN 40% Ryoko Wants Escape 25 June 2017 070

Ryoko is always trying to escape. Like Choco she was able to open the gate until they changed the handle, but even now she still tries every day. However, when the chief capybara keeper tried to lure her out of the enclosure for a walk with a huge branch of bamboo, Ryoko was deeply suspicious and refused to go near the gate. She even stopped eating the bamboo she loves rather than follow the chief capybara

The keeper who frightened Ryoko is new and is a very nice person he just needs a little more training. The zookeeper course should teach trainee zookeepers that they must always move amongst the animals in a calm, unhurried way, showing consideration and respect for the animals at all times. This keeper is always rushing, sometimes running, and this always disturbs and sometimes frightens the capybaras.

WN 40% crop Ryoko 27 June 2017 052

On one occasion Marc and I gave Ryoko a few sprigs of bamboo. She looked so happy and sang sweetly for us. Immediately afterwards the chief capybara keeper went over to her with several huge branches of bamboo. As she approached Ryoko stood up nervously, ready to move away quickly if she had to. Ryoko is extremely intelligent and does not trust the chief capybara keeper at all

Keepers who understand animals would of course instinctively know how to move around the enclosure. They always show respect for the capybaras and move In a calm, relaxed and unthreatening manner. Even when the capybaras escape, keepers who understand animals are always gentle and considerate as they usher the escapees back into their enclosure.

It is imperative that anyone working with animals is able to see the world from the animals’ perspective. This is a fundamental teaching of Animal Welfare Science. Also fundamental to Animal Welfare Science is the knowledge that every behaviour an animal exhibits is meaningful and is the animal’s way of communicating with humans. Animals in captivity must be able to exhibit their natural behaviours, which in the case of capybaras means they should have access to grazing at will and access to a large pond or other body of water as they are semiaquatic. Animals in captivity must also have some control over their lives. Some keepers do not understand this and one keeper uses dog training methods and food to control and manipulate the capybaras in her care. This particularly affects the most senior capybaras in the hierarchy who are already under stress at not being able to fulfil their two most important natural behaviours: to mate and to graze at will. Capybaras are very intelligent and exceptionally sensitive emotionally. They know exactly what this keeper is trying to do and like most rodents species they respond negatively to any effort to control their lives. Capybaras are quite different to dogs who have evolved into a domesticated species over the course of 25,000 years! The result of this unnecessary control and manipulation is extra stress on the herd and capybaras who do not trust the keepers. Ryoko, in particular, is nervous whenever the chief capybara keeper approaches her. This chief capybara keeper should work in the dog section of the zoo.

What Happened to Aoba Capybara? アオバカピバラ何が起こったの?

This is a continuation of my blog “How to Have the Best Relationship with Animals – Do Not Try to Control Them”

The events of this summer set me thinking about my own approach to animals and the negative effect on some animal species when people try to control and manipulate them emotionally.

Every behaviour an animal exhibits is meaningful; this is how animals communicate with humans, but not everyone understands or is sensitive to animals’ behaviour.

WN 40% Injured Aoba 28 Jun 2018 044

Shortly after our arrival this year something very bad happened to one of the capybaras, Aoba. What happened remains a mystery but Aoba was found in a distressed state when the keepers arrived on the morning of June 28, which happened to be Aoba’s fourth birthday. Aoba spent the day at the far corner of the capybara enclosure next to the fence separating her from Kona, the breeding male. She looked very sad and stressed. Aoba chose a location where it would be difficult for the keepers to get to her. At the end of the day the keeper on duty went to Aoba and tried to pet her. There was no reaction from Aoba and as soon as the keeper left Aoba went into the pond and disappeared under the wooden deck.

WN 20% Injured Aoba 28 Jun 2018 100

Aoba spent the day resting

When we arrived the next morning Aoba was still hiding under the deck. In fact we humans did not even know if Aoba was still alive; the capybaras knew of course. The chief capybara keeper put on her waders and tried to get Aoba to come out but there was no reaction. Shortly after this, Aoba’s mother, Momiji, swam over to the deck and called frantically. Momiji looked very worried. About ten minutes later Aoba appeared. Momiji’s behaviour was very interesting. Was she reacting to the keeper’s failed attempt to persuade Aoba to come out, and getting Aoba to do what the keeper had been trying to achieve? As a worried mother was she calling her offspring so that she could check on Aoba’s condition? If the chief capybara keeper had done nothing would Momiji still have called Aoba that morning?

 

If nothing else Momiji’s behaviour and Aoba’s response shows the strong family bond between mother and daughter capybara. As I have written elsewhere, Momiji is an exceptional mother and she was an exceptionally supportive daughter to her own mother, Donguri, staying beside Donguri during the last month of Donguri’s life as Donguri grew weaker and weaker.

WN 40% injured Aoba out from hiding 29 Jun 2018 007

Every time the chief capybara keeper, still in her waders, tried to approach Aoba, Aoba swam away. The chief capybara keeper seemed completely insensitive to what Aoba’s behaviour was telling her. The tone of her voice was one of admonishment; the authority figure who expected to be obeyed. She seemed to have no sense of Aoba’s fragile state or that she was dealing with an injured, probably frightened, animal. The chief capybara keeper wanted to control Aoba rather than connect with Aoba and reassure her. Her complete lack of sensitivity and lack of understanding of the situation and the appropriate behaviour she should be using surprised and disappointed me. I found this very disheartening in a keeper responsible for these sensitive and emotional animals.

Aoba had not eaten for almost two days and this worried me. Capybaras can lose weight very quickly if they are not eating. Marc and I went to the edge of the pond and called Aoba, holding out a piece of pumpkin left over from the morning feed. After a while Aoba came over to us and ate the pumpkin. However, every time the chief capybara keeper tried to approach her Aoba looked nervous and prepared to swim away. I had to tell the chief capybara keeper to go away as I felt it was very important for Aoba to eat and I didn’t want her to be frightened away while we were feeding her. After a while Aoba swam away and hid under the deck again.

crop feeding injured Aoba 29 Jun 2018 014

Later in the afternoon Aoba swam out from the deck so we called her and asked the keeper on duty to give her some food. He refused! He is the most junior keeper and I assume he was under instructions from the chief capybara keeper that Aoba had to come out of the pond if she wanted to be fed! I thought it was much more important at this stage for Aoba to eat something so we bought her some bamboo and gave her some pellets to eat while she was still in the pond.

After she had eaten Aoba went to sleep in the pond beside us. Capybaras often sleep in the pond, especially when it is very hot. In Aoba’s case, she looked very tired as if she had not slept much during the night following her traumatic experience. She was not ready to leave the pond and our presence beside her gave her security while she slept in the water.

Just before we left the capybara enclosure in late afternoon the evening feed was distributed and Aoba came out of the pond. We sat beside her while she ate to give her some reassurance and protection. Momiji came over as well. It took Aoba a week to fully recover.

This is a video we made of Aoba on the day of her distressing experience and the following day. Aoba was found in the Onsen area which is beside a moss covered, rocky hill about 10 feet high (3 1/2 metres in height). On the first day, her birthday 28 June 2018, you can see her in the far corner of the enclosure next to Kona’s pen. Late that afternoon the keeper tries to pet her. Shortly after the keeper leaves Aoba gingerly goes to the edge of the pond. She acts as if she is not confident about jumping in here, perhaps she is in pain, and moves to another area beside the pond where she feels more confident to jump into the pond. Aoba swims into hiding under the deck. The next day she is still hiding under the deck and you can see and hear Momiji frantically calling and looking very worried. If you listen closely I think you can hear a weak response from Aoba. Hinase, leader of the herd, also looks worried and cries twice (not in the video). Then you can see Aoba swimming away when the keeper tries to approach her. At the end of the video you can see Aoba eating vegetables at the evening feed, still looking rather dazed. Zabon’s female baby tries to suckle from Aoba’s nipple! Momiji is beside Aoba, eating some pumpkin.

There is a moss covered, rocky hill about 10 feet high, 3 1/2 metres, behind the Onsen. Aoba was found in a distressed state near the Onsen. Almost 2 years ago I saw Keiko and Sumire, Hinase’s daughters, at the top of this rocky hill stretching forward trying to eat some leaves. Sumire very nearly lost her balance and only just managed not to fall. I have a video of Keiko not quite losing her balance as she stretches forward, a little nervously, to try and reach some leaves. Shortly before this Gin injured her feet and legs very badly. She could barely walk and was attacked by several capybaras who wanted her place in the hierarchy. Eventually, she was attacked so badly she had to be taken out of the herd. I have always felt it was possible that her injuries were caused by falling as she stretched forward at the top of this rocky hill to eat some leaves and lost her balance. I wonder if Aoba also lost her balance trying to eat leaves at the top of this rocky hill. The branches have now been cut right back so there is no temptation for the hungry capybaras.

Two additional things disappointed me about all this: it was thought that Aoba might have been attacked by one of the other capybaras. Although there were no signs of injury it is possible she might have hurt herself trying to escape. The capybaras who the keepers suggested might have attacked Aoba were all capybaras with whom she is very friendly. None of the keepers mentioned, Maple, who is the only capybara known to attack Aoba, as a knowledgeable friend and I agreed. The other thing that bothered me was that one of the keepers said Aoba was fine two days after this mysterious incident. This was not true. On the day when the keeper said Aoba was fine, Aoba lay by the entrance gate looking as if she would like to escape. Then she sat down by the gate and did not move despite the hot summer sun and the hot concrete she was lying on. Normally she would have moved under the bushes nearby where the soft earth was much more comfortable, cool and shady. Later that afternoon Aoba walked the short distance to the pond and looked as if she wanted to jump in but something was preventing her so she lay down again. Throughout all this Aoba seemed more nervous of the keepers than any other capybara.

Capybaras are exceptionally sensitive and emotionally sophisticated. They know when someone is trying to control them and this makes them deeply suspicious.

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Brother Donut sat near Aoba on the first day looking very sad and worried

Some of capybaras outstanding sensitivity to people’s emotions may be due to their superior sense of smell. Humans emit chemicals in response to different emotional states and these chemicals emit an odour which many animals can smell and react to. It has been scientifically tested and proven that animals can smell “fear”. So if you are afraid in the presence of an animal, for example a ferocious looking dog, that dog will smell your fear and may react accordingly. I wonder, therefore, whether people who compulsively try to control animals emit an odour which alerts and warns the animal/capybara that this person is not acting in the animal’s best interest and is not to be trusted.

I have absolutely no doubt that the best relationship a person can have with an animal is based on mutual trust and the person’s ability to understand life from the animal’s perspective. There are far more productive and rewarding ways of achieving a desired behaviour in an animal then by using force or by attempting to control.

How To Have the Best Relationship with Animals

My experiences with horses and capybaras.

The events of this summer set me thinking about my own approach to animals and the negative effect on some animal species when people try to control and manipulate them emotionally.

This year’s chief capybara keeper’s interaction with the capybaras was all about controlling them beyond the usual norms. This had a negative effect on the capybaras, particularly the most senior capybaras in the hierarchy who expected to be in control of their lives and already resented the restrictions on their behaviour as a result of living in captivity. They were particularly stressed at not being able to eat when they were hungry, and not being able to mate. Almost every interaction this chief capybara keeper had with a capybara involved an attempt to make him/her do some completely unnecessary action. Some of the methods she used to try to get the capybaras to bond with her come from dog training methodology; rodents are not dogs! Capybaras are very sensitive emotionally and they knew they were being manipulated. The result of her efforts to control them was that the capybaras did not trust the chief capybara keeper and often became nervous if she approached them.

Every behaviour an animal exhibits is meaningful; this is how animals communicate with humans, but not everyone understands or is sensitive to animals’ behaviour. I come from a family who seem to get on very well with animals and whom animals seem to like. From the youngest age I have always seen things from the animals’ perspective. I have never had any desire to control animals but I have formed the impression that some people who say they love animals, love animals because they enjoy controlling them. For some of these people I have sensed that they felt they had no control over other areas of their own life, or control over people in their lives, so controlling animals made up for this lack of control in other areas of their life.

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Donut

 

Many years ago I spent a few months working at a riding school grooming and mucking out horses. This riding school specialised in training students for the British Horse Society Assistant Instructor rating. I had two notable experiences during this time.

On one of our rides through the woods I was given a young pony called Kestrel to ride. Kestrel had a reputation for being naughty and a difficult ride and it seemed he sometimes enjoyed depositing his rider in the mud! We were supposed to ride on a tight rein but every time I tried to pull Kestrel’s head up he would shake his head and pull against my hands. It was obvious to me that he felt more comfortable on a loose rein and I felt a greater need to let him be comfortable and happy than to control him against his will, so we trotted along with Kestrel choosing how he wanted to hold his head. The track through the woods was occasionally crossed by fallen tree trunks over which the horses would jump. However I had not yet learnt to jump and Kestrel quickly sensed I was in danger of falling off if he jumped over these tree trunks. So every time we came to a tree trunk he would slow down and walk over it. Much to my relief! I couldn’t help feeling that he was repaying my kindness towards him in keeping the rein loose, by not jumping over the tree trunks to ensure that I did not fall off.

One of my duties at the riding stable was to take the horse I groomed to the blacksmith once a month early in morning. The horse I was looking after was in fact the chief instructor’s horse with all that that implies. His name was Darcy. We would go to the blacksmith in pairs and on my first trip to the blacksmith I was accompanied by an American girl doing a British Horse Society assistant instructor course who was a far more experienced rider than me. On our return as we trotted down the tarmac road Darcy suddenly veered off to the right up a narrow path leading into the woods. It immediately struck me that Darcy seemed to know exactly what he was doing and where he was going. Unlike me, he had been to the blacksmith many times before. I was very happy to let him canter through the woods and sure enough the path led directly to the stables.

What really surprised me was the reaction of my American companion. She was extremely upset and angry. Since her horse had not bolted but had simply followed Darcy I could see no reason for her extreme reaction other than she must have had a completely different mindset in her relationship with animals. Presumably, she had felt out of control as her horse cantered along the path and unlike me she was not prepared to trust her horse and enjoy the ride.

One other experience from my time at the stables still upsets me. When I first started working there I looked after a horse called Selworthy. He was a very sweet, gentle, calm horse. Earlier in his life he had suffered a back injury, a slipped disc, and had spent a year recovering in a field of sheep. Selworthy soon took to guarding these sheep as if he was responsible for their well-being and happiness. One day the instructor decided to show the students how to inject a horse and chose Selworthy as the unfortunate guinea pig. Poor Selworthy became more and more upset as inexperienced students tried to inject him. I pleaded with her to leave Selworthy alone and find another horse but instead she put a twitch on poor Selworthy’s mouth. A twitch is an extremely unpleasant way of controlling a horse by tying a rope around the horse’s upper lip and twisting it; the idea is that if the horse struggles the lip becomes more and more painful so the horse will stop struggling against whatever the person is doing to him. In the end the instructor had to abandon this exercise. After everyone else had gone I spent a long time with Selworthy stroking him and calming him down, and telling him how sorry I was about the behaviour of these people.

Research has shown that rodents, perhaps more than any other Order of Mammals, want to be in control of their own lives. The research is quite amusing. For example, in an environment where rats are able to control the light levels the rats prefer a low-level of lighting. However, if the research scientists set the light to this preferred level the rats immediately turn the light up to a right level. It is just so important to these rodents to be in control that they will choose the opposite of what they really like in order to exercise control of their environment.

Capybaras are exceptionally sensitive and emotionally sophisticated. They know when someone is trying to control them and this makes them deeply suspicious.

I will come back to the damaging effects of trying to control capybaras in my next blog: “What Happened to Aoba Capybara?”.

I have absolutely no doubt that the best relationship a person can have with an animal is based on mutual trust and the person’s ability to understand life from the animal’s perspective. There are far more productive and rewarding ways of achieving a desired behaviour in an animal then by using force or by attempting to control.