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

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

 

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

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

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

Donguri  どんぐり

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hinase

Hinase

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

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

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

Maple

Maple

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

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

Momiji

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

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

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

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

Zabon

17% crop WN Zabon 4th August 2015 058

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

Gin

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

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

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

Choco

Choco Stealing Bamboo

Choco Stealing Bamboo

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

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

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

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

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


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

Doughnut

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

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

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

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

Ryoko

13% WN Ryoku 12th September 2015 189

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

Keiko

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

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

Sumere

30% WN 20% Sumere 20th August 2015 068

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

Aoba

30% WN JPEG Aoba and Masakazu SnapShot(5)

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

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

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

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

Butter

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

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

Cookie

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

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

Toku

40% WN Toku

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

Goemon and Io

Goemon Has a Magnificent Huge, Glossy Morillo

Goemon Has a Magnificent Huge, Glossy Morillo

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

Io

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donguri was also very tolerant of badly behaved humans.

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

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

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

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

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

Aoba on the left in a very serious fight with Cookie

Aoba on the left in a very serious fight with Cookie

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

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

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

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

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

Here is my description posted with the video:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20 Sep 2014 JPEG 178 crop nasty Swan attacks Ricki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yuzu, lying lifelessly at the far side of her enclosure

Yuzu, lying lifelessly at the far side of her enclosure

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Here is a video I made of Yuzu:

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

Yuzu Looking Very Sad and Sorry for Herself

Yuzu Looking Very Sad and Sorry for Herself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yuzu made a full recovery.

ゆずは今健康である

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