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

Donguri with her Bedroom Eyes. Her Compelling, Come Hither Look Along with Her Sweet Gentle Nature Attracted All the Males.   色目。カピバラのオスの愛のドングリ

Donguri with her Bedroom Eyes. Her Compelling, Come Hither Look Along with Her Sweet Gentle Nature Attracts All the Males. 色目。カピバラのオスの愛のドングリ

Donguri and I struck up a friendship last year, 2012, on our first visit to the Bio Park. We visited every day for a month and she came to see me as her benefactor in the days when her younger sister Aki ruled over the herd and did her best to make Donguri’s life difficult and uncomfortable. Donguri hates to fight, she is a very wise and peaceful capybara. Despite her lack of aggression she was a natural candidate for number one position in the hierarchy at the Bio Park.   Realising that Donguri was her main rival  Aki frequently intimidated her and made her feel persecuted and uncomfortable. Donguri would just put her head down and wait patiently for Aki to go away, giving a visible sigh of relief once Aki’s threat had passed.

Since Donguri didn’t want to fight she remained outside the Bio Park hierarchy.

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

At watermelon feeding time Donguri would often sit alone, away from the feeding area eating leftover vegetables. She adored sweet watermelon (rodents are addicted to sugar and sweet things) so the threat of Aki’s intimidation must have been a very powerful deterrent for her to avoid joining in the watermelon feast with the other capybaras.  One time I took her a particularly large and juicy piece of watermelon;  she looked up at me with such gratitude in her eyes.  That look of gratitude will stay with me for the rest of my life. I fed her regularly that summer, and I often wondered how she reacted when I suddenly disappeared at the end of August. I think my answer came on our return visit in August 2013.

Donguri being fed by me. She Has Such a Sweet Look On Her Face. 私はどんぐりを養う。甘い、かわいい顔.

Donguri being fed by me. She Has Such a Sweet Look On Her Face. 私はどんぐりを養う。甘い、かわいい顔.

Donguri was very cute when we arrived back in 2013. She completely ignored me and pretended she didn’t know me. Even when I fed her some bamboo she looked away as if I was a complete stranger that she had no interest in. This was my first clue that she knew exactly who I was and that she was playing games with me because I had abandoned her for so long. When other people fed her bamboo she looked at them with a very sweet, grateful twinkle in her eye. By ignoring me when I fed her bamboo she was making a point.   Capybaras are very emotional and jealous and she would certainly resent the fact that I had forsaken her for eleven months.

Then I noticed she was watching me constantly as I petted the other capybaras, which is exactly what she did last summer, making me feel quite guilty that I was being unfaithful to her (anyone who has lived with guinea pigs will know all about rodent jealousy).   So I ignored her for about an hour and then went back towards her. As I approached she looked up at me with a very warm and welcoming expression on her beautiful, loving and captivating face. As I started to pet her, her hair rose and she rolled over. This is quite unusual behaviour for Donguri because last year she did not often respond to being petted. Last summer there were only three or four occasions when Donguri went into that blissful state with her hair raised.

Donguri Being Petted by Me.  ペットどんぐり

Donguri Being Petted by Me. ペットどんぐり

On this occasion her state of bliss lasted much longer than usual, I think she was really pleased to see me again. After I finished petting her she followed us over to the seat where we always sit, and sat down beside it. I bought her a container of pellets and fed them to her one by one. She looked so happy.

“This video was made in July 2015 after Donguri and I hadn’t seen each other for 10 months. I was so pleased she recognised my voice. And I was so happy to see how her hair rose when I knelt down beside her. I am the only person who puts a cushion down to kneel on and the sound of the air being squeezed through the plastic bag reawakened her memories of our happy time together last year in 2014.

Donguri is now the Fifth Oldest capybara in Japan. She was born on September 30, 2005.  She is number one in the Bio Park hierarchy and is the great grandmother, grandmother, or mother of almost all the capybaras at the Biopark and many of the capybaras at other zoos in Japan. She is gentle and wise and avoids aggression unless absolutely necessary. Some capybaras become number one in a hierarchy because they are the most aggressive. In Donguri’s case it was because she is a natural leader, always concerned about the health and well-being of the other capybaras in her herd.

 

It is very bittersweet watching this video now as our visit to the capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park has come to an end. I am very, very sad. I always worry I won’t see Donguri ever again because of her age. She is such a very special capybara and she has taught me so much about capybaras.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YA0RPQ4-WRk

 

Sweet, gentle Donguri. The more time I spend with her the more impressed I am by her. She was in a very playful mood that first day, and indeed on many subsequent days. She is easily the most playful capybara at the Bio Park, except for the babies Choco, Doughnut and Macaroni of course. I would not have expected a great grandmother and the oldest capybara by four years to be so playful.

I find it amazing just how playful capybaras can be, especially a great grandmother like Donguri. In this video Donguri swims under Momiji and throws her up out of the pond playfully. This was filmed on the first day that Momiji and the babies were allowed out of their separate enclosure, and entered the main petting enclosure, meeting humans and all the other capybaras for the first time.  I think Donguri was rejoicing in their return to the herd.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFRw2gfptpc

I came to realise she is celebrating her new found freedom and supremacy. At last she can express herself and be completely relaxed, free from the threat of Aki’s aggression. She can indulge in the little luxuries that were denied her before, like rolling in the mud when there is mud. She is so much more relaxed this year, I hadn’t realised what a burden Aki’s presence placed on Donguri’s happiness and liberty.

Donguri Enjoying Herself in the Pond.  どんぐり池を楽しんで

Donguri Enjoying Herself in the Pond. どんぐり池を楽しんで

Donguri notices everything that goes on in the petting enclosure. She takes great interest in what the capybaras are up to and also what the humans are doing. I feel sorry for her that so much of her life is controlled by humans. On one occasion when Donguri went over to visit Toku she was particularly anxious to go inside his enclosure and be with him.  Toku is the Boss Capy, the breeding male and only adult male capybara at the Bio Park; he is in a separate enclosure segregated from the main herd.  Last year, the breeding male, Yasushi, lived amongst the herd and was accessible to all the females, Aki willing, since she didn’t like to share him.

Normally Donguri is a very placid, accepting capybara. If she is confronted by a situation that is not to her liking and she will put her head down and go to sleep and try to forget about it. Whereas the other capybaras express their frustration: they gnaw at the bars of the fence, stand up on their hind legs looking over the top of the fence, walk up and down and call stridently.

This is Donguri in 2012 when Aki was in power. Her demeanour is quite different to how she is now, now that she reigns supreme. Here she is holding her head down in a submissive pose with little expression in her eyes as if she was trying not to attract Aki's attention. Aki was always picking on her and trying to intimidate her, realising that Donguri posed the biggest threat to her supremacy. This year she looks proud and confident, with her very expressive face held high, watching over the herd. It has been quite a transformation. August 2012

This is Donguri in 2012 when Aki was in power. Her demeanour is quite different to how she is now, now that she reigns supreme. Here she is holding her head down in a submissive pose with little expression in her eyes as if she was trying not to attract Aki’s attention. Aki was always picking on her and trying to intimidate her, realising that Donguri posed the biggest threat to her supremacy. This year she looks proud and confident, with her very expressive face held high, watching over the herd. It has been quite a transformation.
August 2012

On this occasion she began to bite the bars of the fence separating her from Toku. I have never, ever seen Donguri biting the bars of a fence before. When she realised the fence would not give way she turned to me and looked up at me with a pleading look in her eyes, asking for my help. She knew humans controlled the entry gate and could give her access. I felt so helpless. I couldn’t explain to her that even though I was a human I did not have the authority to open the gate for her.

This video captures this scene:   http://youtu.be/rvtJAKtnFs8

Donguri Looking so Sweet and Innocent.  甘くて無実

Donguri Looking so Sweet and Innocent. 甘くて無実

Now at last Donguri has taken her rightful position as number one in the female hierarchy at Nagasaki Bio Park. I would love to have been there to see how this came about. I’m certain she would not have resorted to the level of aggression that most capybaras would need, to assert their dominance over the other females. Perhaps like me the other capybaras responded to her magnetism and charisma and sensed her innate leadership qualities, and natural majesty.

どんぐりは私を見て. Donguri looks at me. The other capybaras are looking at Yuzu and Ninjin in their separate enclosure. Probably they have been given something to eat and the hungry capybaras in the main enclosure wonder why they are not getting something to eat as well. By the way they are sitting you would think they are expecting Yuzu or Ninjin to offer them a titbit!

どんぐりは私を見て. Donguri looks at me. The other capybaras are looking at Yuzu and Ninjin in their separate enclosure. Probably they have been given something to eat and the hungry capybaras in the main enclosure wonder why they are not getting something to eat as well.
By the way they are sitting you would think they are expecting Yuzu or Ninjin to offer them a titbit!

I am not surprised at her ascent. Although her younger sister Aki was number one until she died last year, Donguri was always the most important female capybara in the herd. She was very caring and the first to go over and give moral support to any capybara who needed it. There was always something very special about her.

Donguri has a loyal following among the regular visitors to the Bio Park. Early in the morning at weekends a procession of her followers can be seen quietly kneeling beside her ministering to her, massaging her, pampering her and even kissing her. She rolls over in delight and seems to understand that she is a very special capybara.  When I get fed up and depressed by the modern world and the way some humans behave I think of Donguri and watch one of my many videos of her going about her daily life at Nagasaki Bio Park.

Sitting Alone with a Quizzical Look on Her Face.

Sitting Alone with a Quizzical Look on Her Face.

She frequently sits slightly apart from the herd looking very noble and imposing. Sometimes she swims over to Capuchin Island, in the middle of the pond, and sits there, a powerful, engaging and charismatic capybara. She seems to know she is important and I wonder how on earth she survived all those years under Aki’s domination.

Donguri has her very own site on YouTube, where you can see videos of her.  It’s called Capybara Donguri:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpitE3oNtZ_0Ndx2luPbCKg

Donguri always gives succour and comfort to any capybara who has been put in one of the separate enclosures. This year there are four separate enclosures, although Donguri can only reach three of them. Each morning and afternoon she visits the capybaras in each of these enclosures, calling softly as she approaches and then rubbing noses with the captive capybara inside. Then she spends a little while sitting next to their enclosure, nestling up as close to them as she can, trying to make them feel part of the herd and not forgotten. Momiji especially appreciated this when she was nursing her babies and living in a separate enclosure for six weeks. There were many days when she missed the herd, and called and called for them.

Donguri Guarding Momiji's Enclosure. She visited Momiji regularly during the day. Momiji missed the herd and frequently called to them. A film crew spent several days filming the capybaras. On at least 2 occasions they went into Momiji's enclosure and frightened her. After the first intrusion Donguri tried to guard the entrance gate to prevent the film crew entering Momiji's enclosure, but she was rudely pushed away.    Translate from: Lithuanian どんぐりはもみじを訪問

Donguri Guarding Momiji’s Enclosure. She visited Momiji regularly during the day. Momiji missed the herd and frequently called to them. A film crew spent several days filming the capybaras. On at least 2 occasions they went into Momiji’s enclosure and frightened her. After the first intrusion Donguri tried to guard the entrance gate to prevent the film crew entering Momiji’s enclosure, but she was rudely pushed away />どんぐりはもみじを訪問

Sometimes Donguri would make a strange gruff call when she approached Momiji’s or Toku’s enclosure. I never heard her make this call last year, and I wonder if it reflects her new status as matriarch of the herd. I wonder if it might be a protest. “Why can’t I be with my grandchildren”, “I want to be with Toku”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPhgkFPL2mk

I may be right that Donguri is expressing a degree of anger.

One of the people on the cutting edge of today’s research into Animal Communication is Dr. Eugene S. Morton. He specializes in the natural language of mammals and birds. Dr. Morton has developed rules that make it simple to understand animals when they communicate with one another.  After spending more than 20 years studying the sounds made by different animals, Morton has found that many animals use the same types of sounds to convey the same message. For example, if an animal is angry and about to attack, the sound that it usually makes will be harsh and have a low frequency. Though they make different sounds, an unfriendly dog growls, an angry bird squawks, and an angry squirrel chatters, they use the same type of tone. If an animal makes a high-pitched whine, it is usually afraid and is being submissive. Dr. Morton has found a relationship between the tone of an animal sound and the animal’s state of mind. Listen to the conversations between people on the street and you’ll notice this same conclusion can be made for human communication.

It seems that the more humans discover about animal communication, the more we learn about our own methods of communication. Human language may seem much more sophisticated than the communication of a chimpanzee or a barn swallow. Yet, a growing number of researchers are surprised to find out just how similar it is.

When I get fed up and depressed by the modern world and the way some humans behave I think of Donguri and watch one of my many videos of her going about her daily life at Nagasaki Bio Park.

 In this video Donguri wonders why I am always filming her. このビデオでは:なぜあなたはいつも私を撮影?“:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZosnFrDpWho

Donguri and I, A Very Special Capybara. This video was filmed in August 2012 on our first visit to Nagasaki Bio Park:

As leader of the herd Donguri feels responsible for the well-being of all the herd members. She is ever watchful, casting her eye over the herd and keeping abreast of any changes or activities that are taking place in her domain.

Towards the end of our visit to Nagasaki Bio Park in 2014 a very serious fight broke out between two of the capybara pups, Aoba and Cookie. This is a video we made:

Baby Capybaras Fight to the Death Until Donguri Intervenes赤ちゃんカピバラは死に戦います。どんぐりが介在

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

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

I love this video of Donguri playing with her little son Io in 2012. Video made by Motoko Iwate

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pyGztlCmHY&feature=youtu.be

 

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