Did Ryoko Capybara Suffer a Partial Miscarriage on the afternoon of Thursday, August 16? 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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 she was constantly attacked by Maple who wanted her 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 because she 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

请大家能帮忙代我寻找Choco吗? Choco现正住在中国某所动物园,牠是很容易被识别的。

请大家能帮忙代我寻找Choco吗? Choco现正住在中国某所动物园,牠是很容易被识别的。 Choco有一只分裂的脚趾(见图); 位于牠的左前腿,近左边的第二个脚趾便是分裂的。这只脚趾跟正常的脚趾看起来是较为宽阔的。您在附图便可以看到。

Choco是一只非常特别的水豚,牠非常聪明并且具有创意。

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这是Choco capybara:

 

WN Choco on our bag 09 December 2015 154

Hierarchy in Japanese Society: Its Corrosive Effect and The Often Childish and Petulant Behaviour of Japanese Management 日本社会における階層構造:その腐食作用日本人経営者は、しばしばひどく振舞われた子供のように

Japanese society is very hierarchical. People in authority do not expect anyone to offer advice or challenge their decisions. Japanese people, on the whole, do not complain. This has led to a number of scandals.

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My dealings with the management of one company over six years have given me personal experience of, and insight into, this dysfunctional management style. Put simply, I would describe the management of many Japanese companies as being unsophisticated. Because Japanese people tend not to complain, people in authority believe they can act with impunity, even if they are inefficient. The Japanese economy has been underperforming for several decades because of this inefficiency. The lack of accountability and lack of worldliness (in part due to the lack of English language skills) result in managements who often have a fear of losing control, fear of the unknown, a lack of initiative and a lack of imagination, which prevents them from adopting a progressive and successful management style.

Xenophobia linked to the lack of English language skills both also play their part.

One of the most high-profile scandals was that involving the Olympus Camera Company.

The company CEO was a British man who had worked for Olympus for his entire career. He discovered that some of the senior managers had been siphoning off funds and investing this money in highly dubious Caribbean companies which appeared to be completely unprofitable. This British CEO alerted the board members expecting that they would be so pleased that he had uncovered this financial scandal. However, the reaction was quite the opposite. He was met with opprobrium and asked to resign. At his final board meeting with the company he was served stale sandwiches, while the rest of the board members were served delicious sushi! This has been made into a movie entitled “Samurai and Idiots: The Olympus Affair”, which was released in Japan on May 19, this year having already been released in Europe in 2015.

A friend of mine who worked for Moody’s, the ratings agency, in Tokyo experienced the following: when Moody’s downgraded the rating of a Japanese company, this Japanese company asked him to come to their headquarters. He was kept waiting for over an hour in a small, dingy room where the cleaners took their break. He recounts being surrounded by middle-aged ladies knitting!

No Western company would behave in this childish and petulant way to punish somebody who had acted in an exemplary fashion but whose behaviour upset them.

Managers in the West are taught “damage recovery” or “service recovery”. If you were doing a degree in Business Management or Business Studies you would be taught the importance of pacifying an upset or irate customer by going on a charm offensive; in other words a good manager would seek to make that person happy again.

Other recent scandals involve Toshiba and Fukushima.

A British neurosurgeon I met commented that when he attended a conference in Japan he met quite a few doctors who had trained as neurosurgeons but were not practising neurosurgery because of the hierarchy system. Their talents and long training were therefore lost to potential patients.

I have met several young Japanese men who wish they could live abroad because they see no future with the weight of the hierarchical system preventing their progress.

I have several Japanese friends who have chosen to educate their children in England to avoid the Japanese education system which requires a great deal of hard work, mostly rote learning, but often offers little opportunity for career advancement after graduation. School days are much longer than in Britain and school holidays, already short, were recently reduced to just a few weeks in summer. One of these friends is the son of a diplomat and spent part of his childhood overseas. He wanted his children to enjoy the freedom and fun that he had experienced as a child abroad.

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The education system with its emphasis on rote learning is often criticised for not teaching Japanese people how to think. One of the leading Tokyo University’s has two advertisements at Haneda airport, one in English and one in Japanese, emphasising that by studying at this university you will be trained to think!

I met a Scottish man who decided to leave his job in Japan because he did not want his children to be educated in the Japanese system where they would work very hard and probably end up in a very unfulfilling, mundane job.

Women are often discriminated against and few women feel they have the confidence to challenge decisions taken by men. I believe Japan has one of the worst records for promoting women in jobs and government. A recent scandal involved Tokyo Medical College where it was discovered that women candidates were routinely having their test results downgraded in order to ensure that more male candidates were accepted to study at the college!

And then there is the xenophobia. I have encountered more kindness from Japanese people than I would expect in most other countries but I have also encountered more xenophobia. Other foreigners I have spoken to have experienced exactly the same, on the one hand great kindness from some people but also high levels of xenophobia from others. I recently met two exceptionally polite and well mannered Canadian university students who had been denied access to several restaurants in downtown Nagasaki because they were foreigners. These two young men were neatly dressed, one was studying medicine, the other philosophy.

Another friend, an American who speaks fluent Japanese, recounts going out for a walk one evening in Kumamoto at about 10 PM. As he passed a young Japanese couple he heard the male say “Hairy foreigner! Scary!”. This friend was teaching English and to my surprise said that some students thought it was “cool” not to study or try and learn English. Up to now I had always assumed the lack of English was due to the difficulty of learning English and that every young person would want to speak English if they could.

When Japanese companies do make mistakes my impression is that, rather than owning up to their mistakes and making changes for the better, they carry on as before in the belief that they enjoy impunity whatever their actions.

My own experience, after I highlighted the issues surrounding the most popular capybara being sent to China, are in line with what I would call the typical, unworldly, unsophisticated and often counter-productive management style prevailing in probably too many Japanese companies. As I have said, the Japanese economy has been underperforming for several decades and I can now see why. Companies sometimes take decisions based on nepotism at the expense of the company’s success and revenue as a whole.

The director of the zoo had always been very friendly and always came to say hello within a week or two of our arrival back at the zoo each year. After I complained about the most popular capybara being sent away to China, when we returned this year he did not come to see us at all during the 10 weeks of our visit. When I highlighted some Animal Welfare issues (bearing in mind that Animal Welfare Science is acknowledged to be NOT WELL UNDERSTOOD in Japan, and therefore my knowledge on this subject, having studied Animal Welfare Science, would naturally be greater than many/most Japanese zoos) the person sent as emissary was someone who speaks no English! I do speak some Japanese but not enough for a serious conversation on animal related topics. Following my post on Facebook expressing concern about feeding routines, for one day the capybaras had a feast, the second day they got a much smaller treat and after that the feeding routine went back to normal!.

The zoo was upset because I described my observations, which included some animal welfare issues, on Facebook but I had no channel of communication in English with them. In the past the director of the zoo, the only management person who speaks any English, had said I should contact him if I had any observations in the capybara enclosure, however his behaviour this year indicated he had no wish for me to communicate with him. Some years there has been a capybara keeper who is prepared to listen to my Japanese and use the Internet to translate if necessary, and for two separate years there have been capybara keepers who speak English. This year none of the capybara keepers spoke any English, and the chief capybara keeper was the type of rather xenophobic Japanese person who makes no attempt to listen to a foreigner who doesn’t speak fluent Japanese, which is rude, making it impossible for me to discuss my observations. Last year one of the capybara keepers spoke some English and was very friendly to foreign visitors. He was actually a breath of fresh air in the capybara enclosure and his presence benefited both the capybaras and the Japanese visitors as well as foreigners. Because of his excellent social skills he was poached by the assistant director of the zoo, who is a former insect keeper with a continuing interest in insects and preserving endangered Japanese insect species, to become an insect keeper. The capybaras are the most popular animals at the zoo so from a business perspective it would make more sense for this keeper to have remained a capybara keeper. Had he remained a capybara keeper I would have been able to discuss the animal welfare issues with him rather than post them on Facebook. As this keeper completed his training very recently he has some knowledge of animal welfare issues (I was told that Animal Welfare Science has only recently been included in the zoo keeper course in Japan) and is also one of the few keepers who took the job because he likes animals and understands them.

I should perhaps explain that I have spent the past six years intensively studying and observing capybara behaviour in close contact with capybaras. I have read all the research papers pertaining to capybaras and some mammolagists and ethologists consider that I know more about capybaras than anyone. I do not wish to sound boastful but simply to explain that I have some information about capybaras which the capybara keepers definitely do not. Indeed, some of the capybara keepers cannot even recognise all the capybaras in their care! I also spend much more time observing the behaviour of the capybaras, and their relationships, than any of the keepers with one exception (a former capybara keeper from the year 2014).

I believe Japan suffers greatly from the lack of spoken English which is on a scale far greater than most other countries including Third World countries. This means that management is out of touch with the behaviour of managements in other countries and the lack of English also feeds into the xenophobia that often results in managements which fear losing control, lack imagination, and often have a myopic focus on making money at the expense of innovation and long-term success.

Japanese people feel they do not have a voice and rarely complain. A friend was in tears talking about Choco but she would never complain to the zoo about him being sent to China.

An example of a bad management decision was the decision of a zoo to get rid of their most entertaining and very popular capybara. Not only was this capybara exceptionally clever and entertaining and many people’s favourite capybara, but he was also not aggressive. His brother was the aggressive one. Because this brother kept attacking him, the two brothers had to be separated. When the decision to send one of them away was taken any well-informed management would have chosen to send the more aggressive brother away. I love him dearly but he may well fight with the younger, neutered males in the herd in the future which would result in one of them having to be taken out of the herd and sent away. If the zoo had kept their most popular and entertaining capybara, peace would have reigned in the capybara community at least as far as this capybara was concerned. This very popular capybara was also amazingly tolerant of bad behaviour by visitors whereas the more aggressive brother is a much more nervous capybara. He was a capybara in a million.  He was a gift to the zoo and they threw him away!

A friend of mine read an article about a major Japanese company which hired a British manager to fire people, so that no Japanese manager would be tarnished by doing this unpleasant job. Apparently the Japanese management wanted to be able to claim they would never have done this, so none of the laid off workers would be angry with them.

Hopefully in the future things will change. Bright young entrepreneurs who set up their own companies are already making a difference.

Some Japanese mothers try to teach their children “courage”. They do this by creating an unpleasant experience. For example, a friend of mine’s Japanese mother locked her out of the house in pouring rain in winter, on their return home from a shopping trip. The door had glass panes and the mother looked at her daughter through the glass as the daughter cried, completely confused and upset by the experience which could hardly be described as the behaviour of a loving mother.

 

We often see children in the capybara enclosure who are terrified of the capybaras. As they cry and scream in fear their parents watch them, laughing at them! Not all Japanese parents behave like this and some are very solicitous of their child’s fear and try to comfort them.

 

動物園におけるカピバラの飼育施設のデザイン、飼養、動物福祉、管理環境

カピバラの展示施設をデザインする際は、カピバラの野生状態の行動を引き出すような環境をつくることが不可欠です。最も重要な二つの条件は、大きな池もしくはプールがあることと、いつでも草を食べられる環境を用意することです。

「動物福祉(Animal Welfare)」は全ての良識ある動物園が取り組むべき基盤となります。「動物福祉」を実現するには、動物の管理方法に「行動」に基づいた飼育を適用します。つまり動物に何を提供するかではなく、動物たちの行動を観察してニーズを探ることにより重点を置きます。動物たちの行動はメッセージ性にあふれています。動物たちの一つ一つの行動をつぶさに見れば、動物たちが何を必要としているのか私たちに情報を与えてくれます。行動に基づいた飼育法は、動物たちの健康や心理的充足、自然な振る舞いといったような「動物福祉」が持つ全ての良い要素が含まれます。

展示施設のデザインや環境改善に加えて、私たちは人間と動物の良好な関係を確保しなければなりません。そのためには飼養環境やカピバラの日々の行動に選択肢を与える必要があります。そうすることでカピバラは自分たちで生活をコントロールし、本来の生息地で過ごしているかのような生き生きとした姿を見せるでしょう。

飼育員はカピバラをコントロールしようとしないことです。カピバラのようなげっ歯類はとりわけコントロールされることを嫌います。飼育員はカピバラの行動を理解することに努めます。カピバラの機嫌に敏感になり、カピバラの動作から何を伝えようとしているのか読み取らなければ、カピバラはストレスを感じてしまいます。カピバラの行動を理解するため、飼育員はカピバラの世話に専念しなければならないでしょう。群れの中での個体間の関係を学び、その関係の変化に注意を払いましょう。彼らの行動の違いを見分け、その意味を理解できるようになる必要があります。有能な飼育員は動物の行動を直感的に理解できます。そういった飼育員は洞察力が高く、賢いでしょう。忍耐強さも持ち合わせており、カピバラの行動に興味を持ち、観察することに長い時間を費やします。人間とカピバラが相互に良好な影響を与えることが、飼養下にあるカピバラに良い福祉環境を提供するための基礎となります。そのような環境にいるカピバラは人間を信頼し、給餌や小屋、つがいを見つけて交尾する機会、他の個体との関わりなど、自分たちのニーズを全て満たしてくれることを期待するでしょう。もしカピバラに対して、私たちが無責任でネガティブ、気まぐれ、あるいは強引に接すれば、カピバラにかなりのストレスを与えることになるでしょう。

私たちは自分たちの行動がカピバラの生態にどう影響するのか、常に意識することが極めて重要です。動物学者ヴィッキー・メルフィーと「動物福祉」の研究者が2009年、動物園の「動物福祉」に関する知識やアプローチには大きく三つの思い違いがあることを指摘しました。そのうち二つがカピバラに関連するものです。①劣悪な福祉環境を表す指標にばかり注意を払っていると、劣悪な福祉環境ではないということを“良い福祉環境”と見なしてしまいがちです。しかしながら、劣悪でないという福祉環境は、必ずしも良い福祉環境だということを意味しているわけではありません。動物の飼育施設や飼養方法は、その動物が何を必要としているかという視点で捉えることが重要で、人間の視点から考えることではありません。

動物園は伝統的に片付けやすさや掃除のしやすさ、小屋の構造といった人間の要望に応えた衛生的な飼育施設を建設します。しかし、それはあくまで展示施設としてデザインされたもので、動物たちの心理的な必要性に応えるものではありません。しかし、今日のように動物が人間とは大きく異なる行動様式を持っていることが解明されるのに伴い、伝統的な飼育施設を造りかえる良識ある動物園もあります。動物の生態を理解するには、その動物にふさわしい住環境と飼育方法を提供することが欠かせません。動物たちの自然な行動は数百万年にわたる進化を遂げ、その進化が成功をおさめた結果、その種が生き残っているということを覚えておくことが大切です。

飼育する柵の広さはカピバラ15頭の群れに対して4000㎡~5000㎡が適切です。飼育施設のサイズは群れの大きさ次第です。景観はできる限り遠くまで野生のカピバラの自然な習性を反映したものにすべきです。カピバラは半ば水中に暮らし、水中でとてもエネルギッシュに遊んだりして過ごします。それゆえ木々や林に囲まれた大きな池やプールが用意されなければなりません。また、カピバラは草食動物で、草が彼らの主食ですから、草をはめる場所に自由にアクセスできるようにしなければいけません。

カピバラの飼育員は、カピバラの行動や動物福祉学に強い興味を持ち、理解することも必須です。飼育員はカピバラの観察に時間を費やすことで、カピバラの行動を認識し、個体間の関係を理解することができます。群れが最も幸福な状態にあり、けんかを避けられるよう世話するために、飼育員は知識が必要となります。飼育員はカピバラの体長や重さ、毛並み、食べた餌の量、歯の異常、噛んでいる様子を調べ、少しでも異常な行動が見られないかどうか、一頭一頭のコンディションをじっくりと観察するべきです。もし健康上の課題があれば、初期段階で治療することができるでしょう。

empty pond who stole

池もしくはプールは、上の写真のように掃除の際に水を抜いたら、カピバラが池に出入りしやすいように岩棚や踏み石の配置を工夫しましょう。カピバラが岩棚に座って、体の一部が水中に入った状態で休めるようにします。

飼育されているカピバラは、必要な食餌が取れるように人工飼料(ペレット)や適当な野菜を与えましょう。飼育施設では全てのカピバラが確実に十分な量を食べられるように、カピバラごとの餌付け場所を確保すべきです。もし群れのカピバラが餌を取り合うようであれば、けんかにつながります。いったん群れの中でけんかが勃発すれば、けんかをなくすのはほとんど不可能です。このような理由から、餌をめぐるカピバラの争いを引き起こさないように、餌やりには最大限の配慮がなされるべきです。また、飼育員は群れの中で底辺の立場にあるカピバラが十分な食事が取れるように、そばについて見守る必要があります。そうでもしなければ、より体が大きく、順位が上位のカピバラが他のカピバラを脅したり、追い回したりして餌付け場所から遠ざけようとするでしょう。

WN scent marking capybara straddling plant for a blog

複数のカピバラ研究員によると、南米の野生の生息地では雌の順位争いは確認されていないそうです。しかしながら、柵によって行動が制限され、食べ物や設備をめぐってカピバラ同士が争わなければならないような飼育下にある場合、強い雌がヒエラルキーを築くことがあります。飼育員は順位の下位にいるカピバラを観察し、彼らが健やかに生活できるよう努めるべきです。とりわけ雄のカピバラは順位で統制された環境を好み、自分の子どもも含めて同性のカピバラに対してとても攻撃的です。写真が示すように、カピバラは肛門にある臭いの内分泌腺を枝や草木にすりつけて縄張りを印します。もし1頭のカピバラがひどい怪我を負い、怪我から回復するまで群れから引き離して別の囲いに隔離した場合、そのカピバラを再び同じ群れに戻すことはおそらく不可能でしょう。カピバラは群れの順位が自分より高いカピバラが怪我を負っている際に攻撃しやすいのです。

「飼育施設のエンリッチメント(Enclosure Enrichment)」

飼育施設を環境面でも認知科学の面でも豊かにするという意味の「飼育施設のエンリッチメント」の目的は、飼育している動物たちの幸せを確保することです。「飼育施設のエンリッチメント」は動物たちに選択肢を与え、興味深く刺激のある生活を送ることにつながり、野生にいるような自然な行動を促します。

WN Crop Aoba Milk Pond PLay 05 Jul 2017 055

池やプール:飼育施設の物理的なエンリッチメントは、大きな池やプールがあることが絶対です。カピバラは池またはプールをいつでも利用できるようにするべきでしょう。カピバラの数にもよりますが、池やプールの大きさは4m×8mは必要です。水深は最低でも1・3m必要です。ただ、場所によって0・3m~0・6mと浅くすることで、カピバラは体の一部を水に浸した状態で休めて、容易に池やプールに出入りできるようになります。カピバラは気温が高い日は、水に入って体温を下げて涼しく過ごします。

また、カピバラは危険から逃れるために水を利用することもあります。飼育されているカピバラが仲間から追い回される場面がありますが、水の中に避難する様子も見られます。もしカピバラが何らかの理由で怪我をしている場合、そのカピバラは根元から歯が折れている可能性があり、自分が弱っていると感じて水中に避難しようとするでしょう。(カピバラの高冠歯は常に成長し続け、折れた歯は2週間で元の長さまで伸びます。)カピバラは遊び好きで、池やプールの中ではとても活発です。池やプールはカピバラが体を動かし、野生本来の行動をとるのに十分に大きいことが不可欠です。

 シェルター:日差しや暑さ、雨などを避けるため、飼育施設内にはいくつかのシェルターも必要です。シェルターは木や茂み、または人工的な構造物かもしれません。

寒冷地の飼育施設:カピバラは24℃以上の気温を好みます。もしカピバラを寒い冬場に飼育する場合、カピバラが凍傷にならないよう暖房設備と、風雨にさらされない小屋を備えましょう。

Juanita eating grass

:カピバラはいつでも草を食べられることは最低条件です。カピバラの消化機能は300万年をかけて食物繊維が豊富でカロリーの低い草を主食とするよう進化しました。南米の野生のカピバラは草や水生植物、スゲを食べ、低木や木の樹皮を噛みます。カピバラは歯の健康のため、キメの粗い物を噛んで歯が成長し過ぎるのをコントロールする必要があるのです。飼育施設の中では柔らかすぎる食べ物によって、歯の健康を維持できずに死ぬカピバラもいます。飼育施設であっても、動物たちは野生本来の行動を取れることが基本で、カピバラにとってはそうした行動の中でも草を食べることがとりわけ重要なのです。カピバラは1日2回だけ食事を取るよう進化しておらず、お腹が減ったと感じたらいつでも草を食べられる環境など、適当な食事が取れるようにしなければなりません。カピバラが空腹時に草を食べられるということはとても重要です。 

給餌:カピバラの食事には適当な人工飼料(ペレット)が十分な量を供給される必要があります。もし草が十分に提供できないのであれば、キャベツやレタスなどの葉物野菜を食べさせます。糖分の多い野菜は避けた方がいいでしょう。ニンジンはビタミンAを多く含み、カピバラの肝臓に負担がかかるので与えてはいけません。日本ではたくさんのカピバラが肝臓害度によって早くに死んでいます。興味深いことに、カピバラはしばしば自分たちにとって最適な食べ物が何であるのか理解しています。また、フルーツは糖分が多いので与えるべきではないでしょう。下痢の症状があれば、「Benebac」や「Bio 3」といったプロバイオティクスを与えることをお勧めします。 

適当な草木:餌として与える野菜にヤシの枝を含めましょう。ヤシの葉のベッドはカピバラが横になって休んだり、眠ったりするための柔らかい寝床を提供できます。カピバラは木の枝やヤシの葉などに自分たちの肛門にある臭いの分泌腺をこすりつけて、縄張りを示します。カピバラはとりわけヤシにマーキングすることを好みます。また、すでに説明したように、カピバラの歯の健康のために、噛むのに適したキメの粗いヤシの枝葉を与えるといいでしょう。カピバラの中には石を噛むのを好むのもいます。この場合、石を誤って飲み込んでも消化管を傷つけないように、石は噛み砕けない硬さでなければなりません。

Romeo swimming

飼育施設の中でも動物たちが野生本来の行動を取れることが基本となります。そして、来園者は動物たちが自然の中でどのように振る舞うのかを見ることがとても重要です。カピバラが大きなプールで泳ぐ姿はとても優雅です。柵の中で動物たちはとても退屈してストレスを感じているでしょう。倦怠とストレスを避け、カピバラの健康を維持するためには、カピバラのマインドを刺激するような認知的で職業的な作業を提供することが必要です。こうした活動には、上記のような適切な草木の提供のほか、カピバラが巧みに操って遊べるような自然の中の材料の提供も含みます。

餌をあげることもカピバラにとって楽しみの一つになるよう努めるべきです。例えば、笹を柵の中で毎回違う場所に置き、カピバラが後ろ脚で立ち上がって食べたり、脚を下ろしたりして食べられるようにします。笹を池やプールに突き出した木に固定すれば、カピバラが食べようとして浮き上がるのを楽しめるでしょう。ペレットを散らばった状態に置いたり、隠したり、複数の場所に分けたりして与えれば、カピバラが探しながら食べられるでしょう。上記のような活動は、餌という報酬にありつくために問題を解決するという認知能力を鍛えることにもつながります。

 感覚的・社会的な環境改善:カピバラはとても社交的で群れで生活することを好みます。カピバラを1匹で飼ってはいけません。それはとてもストレスですし、カピバラの行動や性格を変えてしまうでしょう。ストレスレベルは、コルチゾールなどのストレスホルモンが糞の中にどれだけあるかを分析することで分かります。過度なストレスは脳内の構造を変え、早死をもたらします。

カピバラはとても社交的で、触れられることにとても敏感なため、動物園の飼育係は優しくなでて、友達として接する責任があります。もし若いカピバラが人間との触れ合いを望まなかったら、カピバラの信用を得るまでに時間がかかるかもしれません。カピバラをなでたりできるまで親密な関係を築くには、飼育員は笹などの餌を与えて、カピバラが近寄って餌を食べている間にゆっくりとやさしくなでてあげるのがいいでしょう。カピバラはなでられてうれしい時には、毛を逆立てたり、寝転がったり、鳴いたりします。カピバラの鳴き声はとても美しいです。カピバラと人間がポジティブな友好関係を築くことは、カピバラが動物園や柵の中で幸福に生活する上で極めて大切です。

もし動物園の来園者がカピバラの柵の中に入れるようであれば、柵の中にカピバラに近づけない場所を設けることも必要です。カピバラが来園者から離れたいと思った時に、そうできるようにしてやるためです。人間たちと接するかどうかを彼らが選べなければストレスに感じるでしょう。人間から逃れるための場所は池の中の島というのも一つのアイディアでしょう。

WN one very muddy

 泥:カピバラは泥が好きです。よく泥の中で転がりますが、泥はカピバラの皮膚によく、体についたダニや寄生虫を落とすことができます。泥はカピバラの楽しみでもあり、癒やしでもあります。泥の中で転がることは自然な行為で、飼養下でもできるようにすべきです。

 五つの自由:「動物福祉」は五つの自由を基本とします。①空腹や渇きからの自由:健康と活力を維持するための食べ物や水が手に入ること、②不快感からの自由:小屋や心地よく休める場所など、適切な環境を提供すること、③怪我や病気、痛みからの自由:迅速な診断と治療の提供、④行動の自由:適切な飼育環境、適当な設備、同じ種類の動物を一緒にすること、⑤恐れや苦悩からの自由:精神的苦痛を避けるためのケアや適切な環境を提供することです。

 五つの福祉領域:これら五つの福祉領域の規定は、1965年に農場で働く動物たちの境遇を改善するため提唱されました。五つの自由の中身は私たちが課された基本的義務と言えますが、飼養下の動物たちや動物園の動物たちが期待するような幸福を人間が確実に実現できているかというと十分ではありません。私たちは動物たちに対して、楽しくてポジティブな経験を提供しなければなりません。ニュージーランド在住の「動物福祉」の研究者デイヴィット・メラーが提唱している五つの福祉領域がありますが、その目指すところはポジティブな身体的体験と心理的な経験を提供することです。これが「動物福祉」の基本であり、飼育されている動物たちの幸福の基盤となります。

 

What Has Happened to Choco, The Most Popular Capybara at Nagasaki Bio Park チョコに何が起こったのですか? 長崎バイオパークで最も人気のあるカピバラ

Choco was a very special capybara. How could Nagasaki Bio Park send him away. It speaks of immense ignorance and lack of interest in the capybaras. I and many other people are heartbroken.

WN 20% Choco and Marc 08 Nov 2016 077

Choco was an exceptional capybara. People came from all over the world to meet him.

None of the keepers know where Choco has gone which is very ominous. I fear it means he has been sent to China. Zoos in China have a dreadful reputation. I have many European and American friends who work in China and they all say that they cannot visit zoos in China because they are so depressing and the animals suffer so much. (See link below about kangaroo stoned to death by visitors at a zoo in China because the kangaroo was sleeping and they wanted her to move around to entertain them. This is absolutely barbaric behaviour.)

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

When thinking about what has happened to Choco it is important to remember that capybaras are very gregarious, social, herd animals and they are exceptionally sensitive emotionally. Research has shown that humans and mammals share the same neuroanatomical structures and neurochemical pathways which are important for feelings. This means that humans and mammals experience similar emotional responses to situations, both unpleasant and pleasant. Put yourself in Choco’s place and imagine just how frightened you would be.

Imagine how you would feel if you were put in a small, metal cage and taken in a truck to an unknown destination. Choco has never been in a vehicle before so the whole experience would be terrifying. Choco would be surrounded by strangers. There would be loud noises and strange vibrations. If he went to China the experience of flying with the concomitant pressurisation and depressurisation and the sensations of taking off and landing would be frightening beyond belief.

I am very worried about Choco.

lightened WN 25% crop Choco on our bag 09 December 2015 084

Choco was such a wonderful ambassador for the Biopark. He was many people’s favourite capybara. Choco was also a very clever capybara and pioneered many new behaviours which no other capybara had ever done before. This is partly what endeared him to so many people.

People loved watching him open the gate to the capybara enclosure and go out to greet arriving visitors!

One new behaviour which Choco pioneered was to jump up into the channel which carries the hot water to the Onsen and enjoy his Onsen experience in this channel when the senior capybaras denied him access to the Onsen bath. No capybara had ever done this before. Six junior capybaras copied Choco’s behaviour and were able to enjoy the Onsen experience for the first time by going in the water channel. The visitors found this so entertaining.

 

25% Choco in trough

Choco in Water Channel Trough

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 into the monkey house and eating the monkey’s food. Amazingly, the Capuchin monkeys accepted this. Choco was the only capybara the Capuchin monkeys allowed into their monkey house; when other capybaras tried to enter the monkey house they were chased away. Choco often slept in the monkey house out of the heat of the sun and sheltered there when the rain was heavy. Did the Capuchin monkeys consider him their pet?

 

When Choco wanted a nap and didn’t want to be intimidated or chased by senior capybaras he often sought protection by climbing onto people’s laps and going to sleep. No capybara would attack him if he was sleeping on a human’s lap. The visitors loved this. I remember one lady who refused to leave the capybara enclosure until Choco had finished his nap on her lap. Her husband looked increasingly bored and Impatient but his wife was so happy. In cold weather a soft, warm human lap was always very appealing.

To have Choco jump up onto your lap and go to sleep was one of the most wonderful experiences at Nagasaki Bio Park as many people experienced to their delight.  Mostly I didn’t video them but these are just a few of the enchanted people.

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!

Choco often slept on our soft, purple rucksack so we called it “Choco’s bag”. It will be very sad going back to the Bio Park with Choco’s bag but no Choco to sleep on it.

WN Choco on our bag 09 December 2015 154

 

Finally Choco has a bag to call his own. It used to be our bag but he looked so comfortable sleeping on it.   I love the way Choco put his front paws around the bag to make sure nobody took it away from him.

 

Choco loved rolling in the mud. He moved in a very special way rolling right over onto his back and moving his hips from side to side as if he was trying to experience the maximum enjoyment. Watching him was quite different from watching other capybaras roll in the mud. Choco often looked as if he was a trained dancer. Whether he was standing on his hind legs begging for bamboo or rolling in the mud his movements were so special and enchanting.

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 is a real character and the Biopark was very lucky to have him.

To use language the management of Nagasaki Bio Park should understand: Choco was a great asset. From a business perspective Choco was the most entertaining capybara; he provided more entertainment for visitors than the other capybaras. Visitors who witness Choco’s interesting, amusing and pioneering behaviour are more likely to tell their friends to go to the Biopark to see the capybaras.

I hope Choco was not sent away because he often stole food. The visitors found it very amusing the way Choco would get up on his hind legs and steal branches of bamboo that had been put out for visitors to buy, or knock over the bowl of swan pellets, when he was hungry. Occasionally he managed to break into the keepers’ hut where the pellets were stored although he was never able to open the pellet container. Choco often opened the enclosure gates to go out in search of grass or a raid on the bamboo store just outside the gate. All these antics endeared Choco enormously to the public.

 

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. He has inherited his father, Toku’s intelligence.

 

It would be quite unacceptable if Choco was being punished for this behaviour. And also very shortsighted. Surely the entertainment of visitors should be the second highest priority for the Bio Park management after the welfare of the animals. A myopic focus on making money will never lead to a successful business.

What has poor Choco done to deserve this? Animal Welfare Science is acknowledged to be poorly understood in Japan. A Japanese keeper I know of who understands Animal Welfare says that most Japanese people do not understand animals; they think animals are cute but nothing more. This information was corroborated in an article in The Japan Times which pointed out that many zoos in Japan keep animals in very small, unsuitable enclosures. Some of these are very small zoos in city centres which have no space and where animals often become overstressed because too many people are petting them. There is even a zoo in a shopping mall with one adult lion; totally unsuitable for large carnivores, or indeed for any other wild animal.

At all the zoos I know of in Europe the keepers stay with the same species for many years and usually for their entire careers. This means they become expert not only on the species but also on the individual animals in their care. They can troubleshoot problems before they develop and limit aggression. I have one friend who was a capybara keeper for many years at an Animal Park in France. There was never any aggression among the capybaras here and they were able to introduce a female into the herd who was not related to any of the capybaras in the herd.

It seems that Choco’s problems began in January with the departure of the three capybara keepers from the previous year and the arrival of two new, inexperienced keepers. A friend of mine who visited the Bio Park in January said that the keeper she spoke to could not recognise or identify the capybaras. I was told at this time that Choco and Doughnut had been fighting and were taking it in turns to be separated from the herd. In the past it has always been Doughnut who started the aggression and Choco usually turned his back and walked away. Doughnut is a much more emotional and aggressive capybara than Choco and for capybaras there appears to be an evolutionary advantage to being aggressive. If Choco and Doughnut had not been neutered then Doughnut’s aggression might have resulted in him fathering more offspring than Choco. A friend told me at the end of February that she thought Choco had left the Biopark but when I asked a former keeper I was told that Choco was still at the Biopark and they were still taking it in turns to be separated. I now suspect that this was not accurate information. About 2 weeks ago a friend of mine posted some photos she had taken when she visited the Bio Park at the end of March. On one of the photos she posted that Choco had gone but she did not know where. This was my first confirmation of the tragic news that Choco had indeed been sent away.

The Biopark keeps changing the keepers in the capybara enclosure so the keepers never build up any experience or understanding of capybara behaviour. They do not know the relationships between the individual capybaras or the history of the herd members.

There have been a number of significant changes to the capybara enclosure over the years. All of them have impacted negatively on the capybaras. The man who designed the original capybara enclosure understood the needs of the capybaras. He created a much larger enclosure which included grazing but some years ago a few visitors complained that there were capybaras on the path leading around the Biopark, so the size of the enclosure was reduced by half and the capybaras no longer had any access to grass. Nobody who cared about animals or had an understanding of Animal Welfare would condone this. There is an alternative route that visitors could take to avoid coming in contact with capybaras without having to reduce the size of their enclosure. The change to the feeding routines in 2013 increased competition between the capybaras for food and the capybaras now often become very hungry during the day. This has led to an increase in aggression with capybaras having to be taken out of the herd after being injured and then they are never able to return to the herd but must lead an unhappy life in a small, concrete enclosure. Hunger and stress lead to aggressive behaviour.

Capybaras are very gregarious, social, herd animals and they are exceptionally sensitive emotionally. Research has shown that the limbic system, including the amygdala and the hippocampus, which is 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. It is long overdue that every human should understand that animals are much more than just CUTE. We should all understand and respect animals. We are so privileged to be able to share their lives.

It is very important that the capybara keepers stay with the capybaras for many years and develop an expertise in capybara husbandry. They should understand modern Animal Welfare Science including the importance of animals being allowed to display their natural behaviours, which in the case of capybaras means they must have access to grass, which is their staple diet in the wild, whenever they want to eat. At least at the Biopark they have a huge pond. Keepers must understand that it is essential for animals to have some control over their lives and that enclosures must include “enrichment”. Enrichment ensures that animals in captivity have objects to play with or engage with so that they do not become bored and stressed.

As is the case everywhere in the world the behaviour of people is becoming worse. I see this in the capybara enclosure. On our very last day last year I saw two cases of bad behaviour to Choco. One was a young child of about 8 or 10 years old who sat on Choco and then lay on him. I explained to her father that this was not good. Choco was amazing and did not react. A little later four men tried to push Choco over. Surprisingly Choco tolerated this behaviour but some of the capybaras could have become very upset. I have seen other people deliberately try to frighten the capybaras.

Choco is a very special capybara and it is a tragedy that he is no longer at the Biopark. It is unforgivable that Nagasaki Bio Park should have sent Choco away. No honourable zoo would ever send an animal to China.

 

Bioparkに教えてください  中国に動物を送り込まないでください。 私はチョコレートと親戚について非常に心配しています。

 

中国のチョコはなくなった? 私は非常に心配です

 

日本の動物は中国には送らないでください。 中国の動物園はひどいところです。

 

訪問者はカンガルーで岩を投げます。 カンガルーを殺す。 カンガルー睡眠。 それらを楽しませてください。 訪問者はしばしば石を投げ、中国の動物園で動物を打つ。

 

中国の動物園は規制されていない

 

Please do not send Japanese animals to China.  Zoos in China are terrible. I have American and European friends who work in China. They all say Chinese zoos are terrible. Animals suffer very much.

 

A kangaroo was stoned to death in a Chinese zoo – because it was not hopping enough to amuse visitors. Visitors to zoos in China regularly abuse animals, throwing rocks at them or bludgeoning them. Zoos in China are lightly regulated and animals frequently suffer horrific abuse.

 

Have Choco and Kin gone to China?  This is keeping me awake at night.  Nasu Animal Kingdom has sent capybaras to China.  The Bipoark would not tell me where Kin went.  If they send a capybara to a zoo in Japan there is no secrecy.

 

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/animalia/wp/2018/04/20/a-kangaroo-wouldnt-hop-so-zoo-visitors-stoned-it-to-death/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.66bbb8ac9739

 

 

Life As a Neutered Male Capybara in a Herd Full of Female Capybaras 去勢された雄カピバラの生活女性のカピバラと一緒に生活する

baby Choco head resting August 2013

Photo of baby Choco and Doughnut:  Choco when he was a baby in August 2013, sleeping with his head resting on brother Doughnut. Macaroni is behind him. Macaroni’s mother was Ayu, but as Ayu did not produce any milk Macaroni, who is only 5 days younger than Choco and Doughnut, joined Momiji who nursed him. Capybaras practice Alloparenting so it was quite natural for Momiji to accept Macaroni. ベビーチョコ。ブラザードーナツ。マカロニ – 母あゆ。あゆはミルクを産生しませんでした。カピバラはAlloparentingを行います。もみじはマカロニを受け入れました。

In the wild male capybaras would leave the herd when they become sub adults, between one and two years of age. They are too closely related to the females in the herd to be able to mate with them. These young males would usually join another herd as subordinate males, hoping to become the dominant male one day.

 

As subordinate males they play a very useful role on the outskirts of the herd keeping a vigilant eye out for danger. Subordinate males give more warning calls than other capybaras in the herd. They also collectively secure more matings than the dominant male, although the dominant male mates more often than each subordinate male. As female capybaras are only receptive for the last eight hours of estrus, the dominant male may well be the father of most of the offspring in the herd as he can guard the female in estrus for this short period and chase away subordinate males who wish to mate at this time. Dominant males will sometimes interrupt a mating which is taking place between a subordinate male and a female.

 

Female capybaras seem to prefer to mate with the dominant male and if a subordinate male tries to mate with them, or is mating with them, they sometimes vocalise loudly to attract the attention of the dominant male, in effect asking him to come over and break up her liaison with the subordinate male…..And then mate with her.

Choco sleeping front of food stall waiting.jpg

Choco resting チョコ

Sometimes the young males leaving the herd will form their own herds. If they fail to join a herd or establish a new herd, the outlook for a solitary capybara in the wild is often bleak. They may easily succumb to attacks by predators. There is safety in numbers as the more capybaras there are being vigilant in the herd, the more likely it is that a predator will be noticed by at least one of the members of the herd of capybaras who will give a warning call.

 

Capybaras in captivity live a very different life. At Nagasaki Bio Park, in Kyushu, Japan, Choco and Doughnut, Momiji’s sons who were born in 2013, were neutered at age 6 months so that they could remain in the herd. If they had not been neutered Choco and Doughnut would have had to be removed from the herd and as there are too many male capybaras in Japan their future would not have been very happy. They would either have had to spend their lives alone in a separate small enclosure, probably with a concrete floor, and with at best a tiny pond. Very likely they might only have had a small plastic tub barely large enough for them to sit in, which is quite unacceptable for these very active and graceful, semi-aquatic animals. Or they might have been sold to China, whose zoos have a dreadful reputation.

 

What I find very interesting is the way that the senior capybaras in the female hierarchy react to these neutered male capybaras as they grow older. They don’t like them! At first I thought this was because, as neutered males, they smelt different and wrong. But then I realised that instinctively the senior capybaras knew that these males should have left the herd.

WN 40% cute Doughnut paw curled 09 Jul 2017 064

Donut with his paw cutely curled. ドーナツかわいいカールした足

This was why Hinase frequently chased Choco and Doughnut. Even wise and peaceful Donguri didn’t want them in her Onsen, although she never chased them. She just gave them a very powerful look and raised her nose to indicate her dominance and her wish that they would move away, which Choco and Doughnut completely understood. Even their own mother, Momiji, is often aggressive towards them. Capybaras are very sensitive emotionally and Choco and Doughnut could sense the mood of these senior capybaras, and whether, at any given time, they were likely to encounter aggression. Choco and Doughnut would then give these females a wide berth, thus avoiding any direct aggression.

 

Choco, possibly the cleverest capybara I have ever met, came up with a very clever strategy to gain acceptance by the female capybaras. Either that or he was a little confused about his sexual identity. He joined the female capybaras every time they went to visit Toku the male. Toku leads a life of endless frustration in a separate enclosure separated, by a metal fence, from the females who long to be with him. (In 2016 the only female capybara who was allowed in to mate with him was Zabon, and she was only allowed in for 30 minutes on the first occasion and 20 minutes on the second occasion. Toku and Zabon’s frustration at being separated so quickly was palpable and very upsetting to watch.)

 

Choco acted just like the females when the herd went to visit Toku and Toku was never aggressive towards him though he seemed very curious about Choco’s presence, no doubt sensing that Choco was not female! Choco often went right up to the gate of Toku’s enclosure along with the most senior females and Toku often spent a long time sniffing him which was quite amusing to watch, especially the expression on Choco’s face! There was just one occasion when I saw Toku react aggressively to Choco. On this occasion Choco visited Toku without the other females and Toku got very upset by Choco’s presence and became quite aggressive.

Crop 40% Choco Yawn 07 September 2017 015

Choco yawning     チョコ 欠伸

Choco’s demeanour, perhaps his fearlessness, and his general behaviour gained him greater acceptance by the female capybaras than Doughnut, his brother. Doughnut is a much more emotional and openly sensitive capybara then brother Choco, and much more hardwired to be aggressive. He is always alert to the danger posed by Hinase. Whenever she looks likely to come anywhere near him Doughnut will get up and move away. Choco, ever fearless, by contrast, only moves when Hinase begins to run towards him with that mischievous gleam in her eye and her ears pricked. Capybaras don’t often prick up their ears, but it is quite a characteristic pose for Hinase. She does this frequently and looks very cute and it is usually a sign that she is either planning to chase someone, or she has noticed some food and is amazed that other more junior capybaras think they are entitled to it!

 

When Choco does run away from Hinase, he usually outruns her and stops at the earliest opportunity. He then moves back to where he was, quite fearlessly, and Hinase rarely chases him again.

 

When Doughnut visits Toku, Toku gets very upset and aggressive, as does Doughnut.

WN 40% Choco and Maple Mating 08 Jul 2017 067

Choco mating with Maple  チョコそしてメイプルメイト

One of the advantages of being a neutered male and being allowed to remain in the herd with the females is that you may have the opportunity to mate if one of the females will let you. Choco and Doughnut frequently mate with Maple but she is the only fairly senior capybara who is interested in mating. Choco and Doughnut both also sometimes mate with Butter, one of Maple’s three-year-old daughters, but never with Butter’s sister, Cookie. Hinase and Momiji are not at all happy about Choco and Doughnut mating with any of the females and sometimes they will swim over to break up the liaison.

 

One of my very favourite capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park was Syu, whose mother Aki (Donguri’s sister) tragically died five days after giving birth to him and his sister Autumn. Syu was exceptionally affectionate and when I petted him he would put his face up to mine and gently rubbed his morillo affectionately across my lips.

Syu the Most Affectionate Capybara in The World カピバラは私にキスをしました。シュー世界で最も愛情カピバラ:

Syu was also a neutered male and for the first year he and Donguri were very friendly. The second year the keeper, Shoko Ono, who took great interest in observing the capybaras and knew everything about their lives and relationships, told me that Donguri and Syu no longer seemed to be friends. I now realise this was simply because as a male capybara Donguri knew Syu should have left the herd by now. At the time it surprised me that Donguri, being such a wise and compassionate leader and capybara, would cease to be friends with a sweet capybara like Syu. Especially as she always liked the male capybaras and was the favourite of all the males.

 

The relationship that neutered male capybaras have with the senior female capybaras in their herd is complex and not entirely satisfactory. However, if they can remain in the herd by being neutered that is easily the best life for them.

Animal Manifesto: Animals are Real Not Cute 動物のマニフェスト.動物は本物ですかわいらしくない

I am coming to the conclusion that the market for “cute” animal photos and videos is detrimental to Animal Welfare. In some countries it encourages people to buy wild animals as pets when in fact these wild animals are totally unsuited to become pets and usually suffer. It also results in an increasing number of zoos, often very small and cramped, which house cute animals in prisonlike conditions. These animals suffer greatly in small, unsuitable enclosures, often with concrete floors and in the case of capybaras, who are semi aquatic, their water source is a small plastic tub often barely larger than the capybara himself. We humans cause so much suffering to the animals we call “cute”. Capybaras, and all other species, are so VERY MUCH MORE than cute.

 

WN 40% Kin Hides 03 July 2017 010

Kin was always frightened and spent much of the day hiding behind this wooden board in her small wooden hut. The sound of the visitors approaching was amplified by the wooden floorboards, wooden walls around which the sound reverberated, and broken concrete over which the visitors walked. Every time a child screamed she cowered in fear. At the opposite end of her enclosure was a tunnel and visitors made strange loud noises to hear the echo which frightened her even more. Her enclosure was small, the floor was entirely concrete and very uneven making it difficult for her to lie down. The people she was most frightened of were the keepers

 

In my videos and explanations I try to show the capybaras’, who I know so well, natural behaviour which is so much more interesting than cute photos of baby capybaras. Anyone who truly loves and cares about animals will want to know them at a much deeper level than merely “cute”. Older animals are invariably more interesting. As the capybaras grow older they develop their own individual personalities and character.

In an increasingly stressful world I understand the role that animals play in creating a refuge. Cute animals represent a world that is warm and welcoming, an escape from the frustrations and evils that too often represent the world of man. I see an analogy between pinup girls and cute animal photos. Neither do justice to the living beings the photos represent. Photos of cute animals represent a two-dimensional image, and in the case of animals, the animals suffer since their needs are too often overlooked in man’s selfish pursuit of cuteness, entertainment and a refuge at the expense of these animals.

The video below is Ran who was living in Kin’s horrible enclosure when I first visited in 2012. He died prematurely at a very young age almost certainly caused by stress. You can see how frightened he was all the time in this video. The fear in his eyes is palpable

 

Much of the blame for this growing danger to Animals’ Welfare lies in the way animals are increasingly being promoted as cute by YouTube and the world’s media. YouTube promotes videos of wild animals being kept as pets but a life as a pet is usually completely unsuitable for a wild animal.

 

WN 40% crop Frightened Kin 25 June 2017 049

If you look at her eyes you can see how frightened she is. It is very stressful for any animal to live in a constant state of fear

 

In many countries particularly in Asia, including Japan, the media portrays wild animals as being cute and cuddly with the result that most people in these countries do not understand animals but simply view them as cute, as though they were animated cuddly toys. In Japan, to satisfy this market for cute animals, there are an enormous number of zoos which occupy very little space, sometimes even in shopping malls, where cute animals like capybaras, even lions in one case, are displayed in small, prisonlike enclosures totally unsuited to their needs. Capybaras are semiaquatic but many of these capybaras have only a small plastic tub into which they can barely squeeze. Some of the capybaras I have seen in videos look deformed.

 

WN 40% Sumire Momiji Ryoko visit kin pond side 23 June 2017 024

Several times every day her friends in the herd swam to the far side of the pond and climbed the rocky hill and sat beside the boundary fence to be as close to Kin as they could possibly get. In this photo from left are Sumire, Momiji and Ryoko

 

One friend who visited a small zoo in Osaka said the animals seemed very stressed and exhausted by all the petting and attention they received.

WN 40% Kin only we petted leash 29 June 2017 099

Marc and I were the only people who petted Kin. She was the sweetest most responsive capybara and it broke my heart the way the keepers completely ignored her. When I fed her by hand she was so gentle

 

It is vitally important that wild animals in captivity are able to display their natural behaviours. In the case of capybaras this means having a reasonably large enclosure with access to grazing and a good sized body of water. For more on this please look at my blog:

https://capybaraworld.wordpress.com/2017/08/27/capybara-enclosure-design-capybara-management-and-the-welfare-of-capybaras-in-zoos-and-captive-environments/

In some states in America it is relatively easy to keep a wild animal as a pet. Some of the people who keep wild animals as pets do so to increase their own status, find fame or to make money. In the case of capybaras people see videos of these exceptionally affectionate and gregarious animals being kept as pets and think “I want one” without having any understanding of the needs of these complex, highly emotional and intelligent animals. It seems many of these people can’t even afford the often expensive vet bills charged by the exotic animal vets who are the only vets with the knowledge to treat a sick or injured capybara.

Levels of the stress hormone cortisol are much higher in some wild animal species kept as pets and bonded with humans than in these species when they are bonded with other members of their own species. I suspect the same is true with capybaras. I certainly know of one capybara whose life is very stressful because he is bonded with humans.

It is very stressful for a capybara to be bonded with a human. Very few humans can spend all day at home so when the human who the capybara has bonded with leaves the home the capybara becomes exceptionally anxious and unhappy. Capybaras are herd animals and if a member of the herd disappears he/she will almost certainly never return having been killed by a predator. Capybaras are exceptionally sensitive emotionally as they need to be in order to assess the mood of other capybaras in their herd and avoid conflict. This sensitivity results in pet capybaras becoming stressed as they do not understand much of the behaviour of the humans they live with.

WN 40% crop kin escapes looks sadly at her old home 09 Jul 2017 003

One day Kin managed to escape. She made her way to the entrance gate to her old enclosure where she had lived happily with all the other capybaras and looked in so longingly with this very sad expression on her face. Kin had lived with the herd until the day her sister, Gin, attacked her so badly that she had to be taken out of the herd to recover.

 

Baby animals are very cute and none more so than baby capybaras. However, as they grow older and stronger it is common for them to challenge the humans they live with. In the wild capybaras negotiate hierarchy by aggression and intimidation. When capybaras are bonded with humans they view the humans as their herd and turn this natural aggression in pursuit of hierarchy on the human. The pet capybara wants to be number one in the herd hierarchy replacing the human.

 

Many capybaras kept as pets are unhappy and this unhappiness can lead to aggression against the humans who control their lives. Not many people can deal in a positive and successful way with an aggressive capybara. An adult capybara weighs about 50 kg and has exceptionally sharp teeth. Most humans are no match for an unhappy capybara who vents his unhappiness by becoming aggressive. Capybaras can move extraordinarily quickly and can be very unpredictable. One minute they are resting, the next minute they have whipped round and attacked you.

 

I came across a website by accident which advertised capybaras for sale. These were capybaras who had outgrown their “baby” cuteness. They varied in age from about nine months to 3 years. The way in which they were described by the people selling them was heartbreaking. One seller described his capybara as “Sold as is with defects. Cannot be handled” as if he was selling a used car. Another seller described the capybara he was selling as “Suitable for display” as though this sensitive, living being was an inanimate object with no feelings or needs. I was in tears thinking about the unhappy lives humans had created for these loving animals. And I was appalled at the lack of compassion, concern or morality of the people selling these unwanted capybaras.

WN 40% Sumere visits kin 23 June 2017 012

Sumire regularly escaped from the capybara enclosure and went to visit Kin. They called to each other and climbed on their hind legs trying to get closer to each other. Kin’s mother is Sumire’s grandmother.

 

Many zoos throughout the world keep animals in small, often concrete floored enclosures which are completely unsuited to the needs of these living beings who have feelings and needs and whose lives are important to them. Some zoos split up family groups or introduce unrelated animals into a group of a highly social species like elephants resulting in death and extreme depression. This was the case with Denver zoo and its elephants. Every animal is an individual often with very similar emotions to humans. In the case of mammals we share a common ancestry and very similar brain structures and neurochemicals. There is a growing body of research showing how rats feel compassion, will help another rat who is too weak to access food by dragging food over to him/her and will give up a treat in order to avert the suffering of another rat.

 

Hinase, Leader of the Herd at Nagasaki Bio Park 長崎バイオテクノロジーパークの群れのリーダー、ひなた

Following Donguri’s death Hinase became number one in the Bio Park herd. A capybara doesn’t become number one without being intelligent and clever.

I thought Hinase would be my least favourite capybara after Donguri’s death as she was the only capybara ever to test Donguri. This happened on two occasions and as Donguri did not like aggression and also probably knew that she was now weaker than Hinase due to her age, Donguri accepted Hinase’s behaviour without retaliating.

WN 40% Hinase intense look 26 August 2017 038

On one occasion Donguri was sitting in a wooden tub under the Onsen shower when Hinase jumped in beside her. There was not much room and Donguri was visibly upset. I went towards the two capybaras to encourage Hinase to leave. As soon as Hinase saw me coming she jumped out. I find her behaviour very interesting as it shows how intelligent capybaras are. If any other visitor had approached her Hinase would not have jumped out. However Hinase understood exactly what I was doing. She knew Donguri was not happy about her presence in the tub and she knew I was Donguri’s friend and patron. Hinase understood that I was coming on behalf of Donguri to get her to leave the tub.

What puzzles me is why she and the other capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park never challenge, bite or attack humans. Hinase is much more powerful than me and with those sharp teeth she is much better armed. If she had chosen to challenge me she would have won easily.

 

Now that Donguri is no longer with us I have come to know the other capybaras in the herd at a very deep level. Hinase in particular has captured my interest. She always has an interesting but slightly lost and confused look in her eyes. She is the leader of the herd but she is not in control of her life; humans control her life and not for the better. Of all the capybaras in the herd she is the one who seems least happy about the presence of humans. Capybara eyes are very expressive and they have a very similar structure to human eyes so it is often possible to read a capybara’s mood by looking at the expression in their eyes.

WN 40% cute Hinase sleeping 22 June 2017 039

As a two-year-old Hinase was exceptionally friendly and would often sit on visitors’ laps, especially in winter when laps were warmer and softer than the cold concrete or damp earth.  However, like most of the older capybaras, Hinase has grown tired of the behaviour of too many of the visitors, who tease and taunt the capybaras by waving bamboo in front of them and then pulling it away just as they are about to take a bite. When the capybaras are sleeping some visitors poke their morillos or flick their ears seeming to enjoy watching the morillos wrinkle or the ears wiggle and doing this over and over again. I want to say to them “how would you like it if somebody did that to you when you were trying to sleep?”.

Over the past few years I would occasionally pet Hinase using the leash which she absolutely adored. Although she was not my favourite capybara, her response was so overwhelming and rewarding that I did pet her, especially as other visitors to the Bio Park were spellbound at her response to being petted with a leash or by using my foot with a special technique which I developed and which the capybaras love. She would roll over in absolute ecstasy her hair rising with pleasure. Nobody else ever pets capybaras using a leash or with their foot so it was a novel experience for the visitors to the Bio Park capybara enclosure. (When I use my foot I am extremely gentle and just ruffle the hair on a capybara’s body in the areas which I know gives them the most pleasure.)

WN 40% Hinase pond 25 September 2017 013

This year she started coming to me when she wanted to be petted. I felt honoured. Since I had not spent much time with her I was intrigued by this. I think it shows how clever and intelligent she is as it is not that common for capybaras to specifically choose the person they want to be petted by. I discovered she loved me rubbing her morillo when she was in the mood. Most capybaras do not particularly like having their morillos rubbed. Hinase more than any other female capybara I have known loves to rub her morillo and does so very frequently. The most senior capybara in a hierarchy normally rubs their morillo more often than more junior capybaras.

WN crop Hinase rubbing morillo pond 03 July 2017 008

Unlike Donguri she does not show a great interest in what is going on in the capybara enclosure. She does not have Donguri’s compassionate nature and most of her behaviour is directed towards satisfying her desires.

She seems to want the capybaras to acknowledge her leadership. Most of the capybaras become alert as she approaches ready to jump up and move away if they sense that she might be aggressive towards them. This usually ensures that she is not aggressive towards them. However Butter doesn’t seem to understand this. Butter is near the bottom of the hierarchy and much, much smaller than Hinase. Despite this occasionally and amazingly I have seen Butter approach Hinase when Hinase is eating and look as if she is going to challenge Hinase for some food. The look on Hinase’s face as Butter approaches is priceless, one of absolute disbelief! Hinase frequently chases Butter and the look in her eyes when she is in the mood to chase Butter is one of excitement. Hinase’s eyes protrude slightly more than most capybara eyes and I have to admit I love the sparkle in them when she is in the mood to chase. It’s almost as if she is doing it for fun.

Sometimes she is acting out of frustration when she chases Butter. She desperately wants to be with Toku, the breeding male, and mate with him. As leader of the herd that is her right. She spends many hours rubbing her nose rapidly up and down on the gate to Toku’s enclosure. This behaviour is called Stereotypies, or Abnormal Repetitive Behaviour (ARB) and is a sign of stress. On one occasion as Hinase walked through the petting area, where the capybaras were resting, on her way to visit Toku (she can only rub noses with him through the fence of his enclosure unfortunately) she took out her frustration on every capybara she passed pushing her nose into their bottoms and nipping them!

WN 40% crop Hinase relaxing 19 September 2017 015

As she got older Milk, one of Maple’s five pups and just over 16 months old, was becoming more aggressive. One day I noticed Hinase chasing her and decided that Hinase understood that part of her role as leader was to keep the rest of the herd under control. She doesn’t like it when one of the neutered males, Choco or Doughnut, mate with Maple or Butter. Maple and Butter are the only capybaras in the herd who mate with Choco and Doughnut, which in itself is interesting. Hinase seems to accept Choco more than she does Doughnut. Choco is very relaxed and fearless whereas brother Doughnut is more aggressive but very sensitive, restless and perhaps the most nervous capybara in the herd. Doughnut seems most in touch with his wild side and is quick to move away whenever Hinase approaches. In many ways his personality resembles his mother, Momiji.

One day Hinase was challenged by Maple over food. It is very unusual for any capybara to challenge Hinase. Both capybaras sustained some nasty wounds. Hinase had a very painful bite on her mouth which took five days to heal during which time she was obviously suffering. On the third day she came to me at least ten times towards the end of the day asking me to rub her morillo. Rubbing her morillo seemed to provide her with some relief from the pain and discomfort of the wound.

Then I noticed some very interesting behaviour. As the herd were walking back from visiting Toku Aoba went over to Hinase and nuzzled her morillo for some time which Hinase seemed to really appreciate. Aoba was the only capybara in the herd who responded compassionately to Hinase’s suffering. Hinase and Aoba are not particular friends. Aoba is one of the most intelligent and perhaps the most sensitive capybaras in the herd. In the first two years of her life she often tried to enhance her position in the herd by nuzzling the senior capybaras and trying to befriend them. She is the only capybara I have seen use this strategy to improve her position in the hierarchy. She was very successful with Donguri and occasionally Maple would let her share her food trough but she had no success whatsoever with Hinase at that time.

WN 40% beautiful Hinase sleeping 22 June 2017 040

After this I noticed Aoba trying to share Hinase’s food trough with brief periods of success. I also noticed Hinase intimidate Maple on several occasions following their fight to emphasise to Maple that she, Hinase, was “the boss”.

The relationship between Hinase and Momiji, who is second in the hierarchy, is very interesting. You might think they would be competing with each other but in fact they appear to be the best of friends. They play together in the pond, although from time to time Hinase appears to act very aggressively and Momiji swims away rapidly. However Momiji returns almost immediately as if the aggression was very momentary and she knew she had nothing to fear. They ride on each other’s backs in the pond and nuzzle each other playfully. From time to time Hinase will give her extraordinary gruff call, her whole body heaving with the effort. This appears to be a summons to Momiji who dutifully comes swimming over. On other occasions Momiji gives this notable gruff call.

They often sleep together. Only where food is involved does Hinase always win, sometimes being unnecessarily brutal in pushing Momiji away. Momiji never challenges her, wise capybara that she is. A former chief capybara keeper described Momiji as very intelligent. For much of her life she has been number two and she seems quite comfortable in that role. She benefited during Donguri’s four years as leader of the herd, Donguri being Momiji’s mother and with whom she had a very close relationship. Very often Momiji will initiate an activity and Hinase will follow. Hinase is not as active in the pond or on land as Momiji. No other capybaras in the herd spend as much time together as Hinase and Momiji do.

I don’t think Hinase has a high opinion of humans. She seems wary of them and unaware that she is much more powerful physically and could do them a nasty injury if she attacked them. She probably senses that in a world dominated by humans she could never come out on top. She often looks mystified by human behaviour. Like the other capybaras she hates having to beg for food, especially as she is number one in the hierarchy and should be answerable to no one.

WN 40% Hinase 01 October 2017 099

When she was just two years old I watched her performing for a crowd of people who wanted to photograph her. She was fantastic. Posing for about 10 minutes like a top model, tilting her head from side to side, then turning to different positions for the cameras. Finally she opened and closed her mouth a few times to hint that she might like a reward. Everyone else ignored her, but I went off and found a few bits of watermelon for her. In her youth she was a very friendly capybara but like many of the capybaras she got tired of being teased and taunted by thoughtless, ignorant humans.

Hinase was born on 28 April, 2010. Her mother was Fujiko and her father was Takeshi. Her grandmother was the great Donguri.