How to Pet a Capybara. Capybara Erogenous Zones: The Parts of the Body Where Capybaras Love to Be Petted. カピバラをマッサージする方法 Как домашнее животное водосвинку

wn-how-to-pet-blog

 

Capybaras are the most responsive animals I have ever encountered. They love to be petted and their response is overwhelming. Their hair rises (pilo erection), they start to sing (capybaras make the most beautiful sounds and vocalisations) and they roll over on their backs with a look of complete ecstasy on their faces.

These are the places on their bodies which are most responsive to petting:

Capybaras love to be petted near their cloaca (anal pocket). Capybaras have the cleanest bottoms as their anus and reproductive organs are hidden inside their cloaca and when they defecate their faeces is expelled through their anal tube so their bottoms are completely clean. Also since they spend a lot of time in water they are very clean animals. I personally think they are much cleaner than humans.

The soles of their feet are very sensitive, the hind feet slightly more so than their front feet. They love to have the soft pad behind the toes and the toes rubbed. One capybara I know goes into a trance when you rub the soft pad behind his toes.

The muscles of their buttocks, on either side of the cloaca are very responsive to massage.

Just behind where their forelegs meet their bodies is another area they love having rubbed. One capybara I know goes into a trancelike state of ecstasy when this area is rubbed. Just in front of where their hind legs meet their bodies they love having rubbed as well.

When you pet a capybara you should rub its skin pushing the hair in the opposite direction to the way their hair grows, and in the opposite direction to the way you would pet a cat or dog. Some capybaras like to be petted very vigourously. Some capybaras may even like you to use your fingernails as if you were scratching him/her. Other capybaras hate to be petted vigourously. Some capybaras respond to even the lightest touch as you gently disturb the hair on their backs or other parts of the body. Once a capybara gets to know you and enjoys the way you pet him/her, he/she may react to your presence even before you touch him/her in anticipation of the forthcoming pleasure. One friend wriggles her fingers in a petting motion to indicate to the two capybaras she lives with that she is about to pet them, and their hair rises in blissful anticipation.

In the wild capybaras often go into ecstasy with their hair raised when birds “groom them” looking for ticks. The touch of the bird’s feet and beak create a very pleasurable sensation for the capybara. Capybaras in captivity often respond in this way to the touch of other animals brushing against their bodies or nuzzling and nibbling them. Pet capybaras often respond in this way to pet dogs, or other pet animals.

Some capybaras love to be rubbed under their chins. This is particularly true of baby capybaras who adore being rubbed under the chin. Capybaras nuzzle each other under their chins and even the gentlest touch from another capybara will make a capybara’s hair rise – a blissful experience for the capybara.

Some capybaras adore having their ears rubbed, other capybaras hate this. There are many different ways to rub a capybara’s ears. You can pass the flat of your hand over the ear from front to back, you can gently rub different areas of the ear and where it attaches to the head with your thumb and forefinger.

There is a place on the sides of a capybara’s nose a bit further back than its mouth which is particularly sensitive, especially with baby capybaras. Rubbing or massaging this area may send a capybara into a trancelike state.

Capybaras love to be rubbed on their chests and on their tummies/stomachs/bellies. One capybara I know begins to sing loudly when rubbed on the lower part of his tummy.

Once a capybara is rolling on his back in a state of ecstasy almost anything you gently do will create a response. I know one baby capybara who likes to be gently prodded with a fork. This probably mimics the feeling a capybara in the wild would have when a bird grooms him eating any ticks with his sharp beak. Capybaras love being groomed in the wild by birds.

Capybaras love the gentle touch of other animals and will roll over in ecstasy very often if another animal gently rubs against him. I know one baby capybara who, in the midst of jostling and fighting with his siblings for a bite of bamboo, will go into a trancelike state with his head raised, his nose pointing to the sky, if one of his brothers or sisters accidentally rubs him under the chin while trying to get the bamboo. This baby capybara will lose all interest in eating and hold his head high waiting for the experience to be repeated.

Some capybaras, particularly baby capybaras, will nuzzle another capybara and rub their chins on the other capybara’s back in the hopes of the second capybara nuzzling him/her in return.

I sometimes use a leash/lead and gently run it over the hair starting near the capybara’s bottom, then moving on to the feet and other favourite places. Some capybaras adore to be petted in this way. I have also found that by very gently rubbing my foot under a capybara who is standing, starting in front of the hind legs and moving up its tummy to the front legs, and then gently rubbing my foot against his/her bottom capybaras go into a state of absolute bliss. If I am behind a standing capybara and gently rub between his/her hind legs, capybaras adore this. One capybara I know went into a trancelike state when I gently rubbed her under the chin with my foot.

It helps if you can judge the mood of a capybara before you start petting. If a capybara is sleepy he/she is unlikely to be responsive.

Every capybara is an individual with different preferences so by watching a capybara’s responses you can work out whether he or she is enjoying what you are doing. The rise and fall of their hair will indicate the degree of pleasure you are giving the capybara. You will need to keep moving between the different areas to create the greatest response. If you just keep rubbing one place the response begins to die down.

 

 

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

 

Macaroni

Macaroni

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

Capybaras are very gregarious and often vocalize.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This is a summary of the research on capybara vocalisations:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Syu makes Alarm Call 当確 アラームコールを行います

Syu makes Alarm Call 当確 アラームコールを行います

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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