Where Can I Pet A Capybara in England?

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

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

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

jinx Shepreth

Jinx at Shepreth Wildlife Park

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

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

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

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

Shepreth Wildlife Park, near Cambridge.

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

Jinx Shepreth 2

Jinx at Shepreth Wildlife Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tommy Lawn Cotswold 2

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

Beale Park, north-west of Reading, Berkshire.

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

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

Cotswold Wildlife Park, at Burford, Oxfordshire

10% Cotswold wildlife Park 2019

Capybaras at Cotswold Wildlife Park

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

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

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

Tommy Lawn Cotswold

Tommy Lawn at a British wildlife park

 

Drusillas Park, Alfriston, East Sussex

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

IMG_20171114_142825

Juanita looks blissful in the arms of Juan who rescued her

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

WN scent marking capybara straddling plant for a blog

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Young Prune

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

30% Choco sleeping on Lady's lap

Choco sleeping on a lady’s lap. Choco spent over an hour on her lap and she wasn’t going to leave the capybara enclosure while Choco wanted to sit on her lap. Her husband looked increasingly bored!

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

Hinase does a backward somersault in this video:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Zoos in Britain with Capybaras

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

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

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

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

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

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

WN baby capybara on mother South America

 

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

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

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

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

wn donguri yawns marc pets 19 jan 2016

Donguri Yawns When Marc Pets Her 19 January 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

WN 40% Hinase intense look 26 August 2017 038

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

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

 

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

WN 40% cute Hinase sleeping 22 June 2017 039

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

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

WN 40% Hinase pond 25 September 2017 013

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

WN crop Hinase rubbing morillo pond 03 July 2017 008

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

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

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

WN 40% crop Hinase relaxing 19 September 2017 015

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

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

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

WN 40% beautiful Hinase sleeping 22 June 2017 040

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Friendliest Capybaras in the World. Part One: Momiji’s Family 世界で最もフレンドリーなカピバラ。モミジ 家族

Anyone who loves capybaras will enjoy spending time with the capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park.

Just like humans they all have different personalities and characters.

There are three families of capybaras in the herd at Nagasaki Bio Park. Those of Momiji, Hinase and Maple. The great Donguri was Momiji’s mother, and Hinase’s and Maple’s grandmother. Only one capybara, Zabon, is not descended from Donguri. Her mother was Aki, Donguri’s sister.

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When Choco and Doughnut were babies in 2013.  With Macaroni, Ayu’s son, yawning in the background.  Choco is resting his head on Doughnut

Momiji’s Family are my favourites:  the neutered males Choco and Doughnut born in 2013, and their sister Aoba who is one year younger. Momiji’s family are very sensitive and intelligent; this is what draws me to them. They seem to respond to me on a more emotional level and because of their sensitivity they often suffer more than other capybaras which makes me want to help them and make them feel better.

When they were yearlings Choco was the dominant of the two brothers. However, a year later Doughnut had become the dominant of the two with a slightly larger morillo. Interestingly, after their big fight in 2017, which was the first fight that Choco won, Doughnut’s morillo seemed to almost disappear while Choco’s morillo had grown. As Choco began mating his morillo grew even larger. In the wild, the dominant male capybara tends to have the biggest morillo and a large morillo is considered indicative of the dominant male capybara in the herd.

Choco is highly intelligent and pioneers many new behaviours. I have written a blog about him and he has become famous with people coming from as far away as Australia and America to meet him. He solved the problem of being a junior capybara in the hierarchy by bypassing hierarchy altogether and going straight to what he wanted. If it was food he wanted he went into the monkey house and ate the monkey’s food. Amazingly the monkeys accepted him but every other capybara who tried to copy Choco’s behaviour was chased away from the monkey house. At other times when he is hungry Choco climbs up on his hind legs and knocks over the bowl of swan pellets on the bamboo stall or steals a branch of bamboo.

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Choco helping himself to pellets.

 

Choco was the first capybara who worked out how to open the gate to the capybara enclosure. Sadly, the handles on the gate have been changed to round handles which a capybara’s mouth cannot grip so poor Choco is no longer able to open the gate and go out and graze on the grass which is an essential part of a capybara’s diet but which the capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park never have access to.

Changing the handles on the gate was a very misguided move on the part of the Bio Park as the visitors were enchanted watching Choco open the gate: they found it much more exciting than watching capybaras eat watermelon. From an Animal Welfare perspective it would have been much better to allow those capybaras who want to escape and eat grass, to go out for five or ten minutes and graze on nutritious grass before bringing them in. The capybaras are sometimes hungry and it is very important for animals in captivity to have some control over their lives. Grazing animals need to be able to eat when they are hungry, not when the humans who control their lives give them their two meals a day. Grazing animals have not evolved over millions of years to eat two meals a day. Having to beg for bamboo and compete with other, possibly more aggressive, capybaras for that bamboo, and often being taunted or teased by the visitors who hold out the bamboo and then pull it away just as the capybara goes to eat it, is not a solution to how to feed these wonderful and emotionally sensitive animals.

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Choco snuggled up to Marc to read the news on Marc’s smartphone.  He looked quite depressed when he realised how humans behaved.

The frustration of no longer being able to open the gate changed Choco’s personality. At first he became much more aggressive. His brother Doughnut is usually the more aggressive of the two brothers and frequently used to challenge Choco to a fight. Choco’s response was either to turn his back to deflate the situation or if they did fight, the fight was very brief with Choco running away and always coming off worse with a few injuries. However, after the gate issue, when Doughnut challenged him Choco took Doughnut on. A horrible fight broke out and Doughnut suffered badly. His two upper front teeth broke off at the root and he had many deep wounds. These days, denied the challenge of opening the enclosure gate, Choco often seems depressed and spends much time just sleeping. He has also lost a bit of weight.

Animal Welfare is a vitally important issue when it comes to wild animals in captivity. It is essential that keepers are well-trained in Animal Welfare and Animal Behaviour and understand the behaviour of animals in their care from an animal’s perspective. Every behaviour expressed by an animal is meaningful. Unfortunately, Animal Welfare is in its infancy in Japan. I am told it was only added to the curriculum of the zookeeper courses in Japan very recently. This means that the more senior keepers often have no understanding of advances in Animal Welfare Science, and the junior zookeepers when they get jobs working in zoos do not have the authority or confidence to change the prevailing ethic. Mr Ban, a leading zookeeper at Omuta Zoo (sometimes spelt Omuto) in Fukuoka is on record as saying that Japan (and no doubt Asia as a whole even more so than Japan) lags behind the West with regard to Animal Welfare, and that the Japanese do not understand animals; they think animals are cute but nothing more. I suspect this is true of people in many other countries as well including America.

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Choco has a very penetrating gaze.  He insisted that he did not touch the purple rucksack full of food which had mysteriously fallen onto the bench.

Choco has a very pleasing, laid back charm and he is absolutely fearless. When the senior capybaras would not allow neutered males into the Onsen bath Choco pioneered climbing up into the large wooden channel which carries the warm water to the Onsen bath; after that many other junior capybaras were able to enjoy a warm water bath by copying Choco and climbing into the water channel.

Doughnut has a completely different personality to brother Choco. Of all the capybaras in this herd he seems the most in touch with his wild side and the least trusting of humans. I have nicknamed him the Samurai capybara. Like his mother Momiji he is very intense and is prepared to fight over food or access to capybaras in separate enclosures. He is nervous of the keepers and the vet and where some capybaras will roll over hoping to be petted when a crowd of noisy schoolchildren gather around them Doughnut takes fright and tries to run away.

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Doughnut by the capystove in winter

Perhaps because of his mistrust of many humans he and I have developed a bond and he often comes to me to be petted.

After Choco and Doughnut had the big fight I mentioned above, and Doughnut lost his two front teeth (capybara teeth are hypsodont teeth which means they keep growing throughout the capybara’s life) it took just over two weeks for his teeth grow back. Doughnut completely lost his confidence after losing this fight and his teeth. Feeling very vulnerable Doughnut spent the next two days hiding in the large pond. Capybaras feel much safer in water and when danger threatens they will usually run to a pond or river.

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Despite the wound, Doughnut looks blissful as I pet him.  His raised emotional state from the fight made him even more responsive to being petted interestingly.  I have noticed with capybaras that they are especially responsive when their emotions have been aroused by some completely different activity like fighting, eating or the sexual excitement of visiting Toku the male.

However, on the third day the pond was emptied for cleaning and Doughnut had nowhere to seek refuge. The timing couldn’t have been worse for Doughnut as the pond is very rarely emptied. In five years of visiting the Bio Park this is only the second occasion I have witnessed the pond cleaning.

Doughnut resolved this by seeking refuge beside Maple. Last year Doughnut had shown great interest in Maple and tried to mount her but she rejected his advances. He often slept near her and seemed to like being close to her and in her company.

To add insult to injury, the very next day Choco mated with Maple. He then continued to do so on many more occasions. Following this Choco spent a lot of time with Maple. They often shared a food trough and slept next to each other.

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Doughnut felt very vulnerable after losing his teeth and being badly wounded by brother Choco and sought refuge in the pond.

It took Doughnut about 11 weeks to recover after their big fight. Doughnut regained the weight he lost when he couldn’t eat properly. He has also regained his confidence although he no longer challenges Choco. At about this time I noticed Doughnut and Maple together and Choco seemed happy to leave them alone together. Perhaps Choco is frustrated when Maple is not as interested in mating with him as he would like and wants Doughnut to share that frustration!

Soon after this their love lives became much more complicated and interesting! Before the big fight Doughnut had mated with Butter, Maple’s daughter and the most junior member of the hierarchy. Ten days ago Choco, frustrated with his lack of progress with Maple, also mated with Butter. The expression on Maple’s face as she watched Choco mate with her very junior daughter was priceless; one of absolute surprise. She immediately pursued Choco into the pond and mated with him!  Doughnut followed them. Choco mated with Maple many times over the course of about forty minutes. Then Doughnut began to mate with Maple! Surprisingly, Choco didn’t seem to mind at all. He climbed up onto Capuchin Island and watched intently; he looked as if he was enjoying being a voyeur. Since then Choco and Doughnut have been very friendly and affectionate towards each other.

From time to time when Choco or Doughnut are with Maple, Momiji will swim over as if keeping an eye on her boys behaviour, and the boys swim away as if knowing their mother does not approve of their liaison with Maple. Normally Hinase seems to prefer Choco to Doughnut. When Doughnut was mating with Butter, Hinase swiftly swam over, her eyes blazing and chased Butter, who she particularly dislikes, to the far side of the pond. As leader of the herd Hinase might disapprove of the neutered males mating. However she seems to tolerate Doughnut mating with Maple more than Choco mating with Maple. It is almost as if she finds some relief from her frustration at not being able to mate with Toku, the breeding male at Nagasaki Bio Park who is in a separate enclosure, by watching Doughnut mating with Maple. When Choco and Maple are together in the pond she often comes over to keep an eye on them and sometimes she chases Choco away.

Aoba was Momiji’s only baby in 2013 and Aoba was very spoilt. Momiji is a fantastic mother and every time Aoba demanded milk Momiji would get up and walk somewhere quiet so Aoba could suckle. Aoba was exceptionally demanding and frequently Momiji would toss her head in frustration and bark but she never denied Aoba milk. Most capybaras are weaned at about four months of age, but Aoba carried on drinking Momiji’s milk until she was eight months old. Consequently she is a bigger capybara than her brothers Choco and Doughnut. Additionally, she sometimes drank Maple’s milk even though I was told that as a first-time mother Maple had not produced enough milk for her own babies, Butter and Cookie. However, Aoba never let Butter or Cookie drink her mother, Momiji’s, milk! Capybaras go in for Alloparenting which means any lactating female capybara will allow any other mother’s babies to drink her milk. Aoba is more than twice Butter’s size now that they are three years old, thanks to all that milk.

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Aoba relaxing

Aoba may well be the most intellectual of the capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park. I once saw her pick up a bamboo stick with two paws to eat it, like a human or monkey would. I have never seen any other capybara do this. Capybaras would normally pick up sticks with their mouths. I assume she has watched how the humans and capuchin monkeys in her enclosure pick up sticks. Being so spoilt she grew up thinking she was the most important capybara in the world. It must have come as a shock to her, after she was weaned, to discover that she was near the bottom of the hierarchy. Her clever solution to this problem was to try and make friends with all the senior capybaras in the herd so that she could share their privileges and their food trough. This worked with Donguri, who was always very generous and unaggressive. Sometimes it worked with Maple but I never saw her near Hinase. Donguri was the most playful adult capybara I have ever seen and Aoba and Donguri frequently played together in the pond. Aoba has inherited her grandmother’s playfulness.

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Aoba on the left playing with Milk in the pond.  Aoba is very playful like her grandmother the great Donguri

However, because Aoba is so sensitive she is often nervous of being attacked and tends to sleep and relax slightly apart from the other capybaras. She would like to be aggressive and sometimes in the past was perhaps too aggressive which resulted in some painful deep bites. I thought she might one day be the leader of the herd at the Biopark. In her first year she was the only capybara aside from Donguri who showed an interest in everything that was happening in the capybara enclosure. I think her confidence has been dented and her rival for the number one spot is Ryoko, Hinase’s largest daughter and a very large capybara.

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Aoba looking seductive

Ryoko is the only other capybara in the main herd who knows how to open gates. They inherit their intelligence from their father, Toku, who also knows how to open gates and is highly intelligent but he is in a separate enclosure. However Ryoko, like her mother Hinase, is a very clever capybara who knows not to be aggressive unless she is certain of winning so her confidence has never been undermined. Hinase’s family seem much more tough-minded than Momiji’s family.

Hinase is number one in the hierarchy and Momiji is number two. Amazingly they appear to be the best of friends and often sleep together and play together in the pond.

It is interesting to watch Momiji when she wants to intimidate another capybara. Her body arches and stiffens slightly, she raises her head and and her hair bristles, there is an intensity about her body language which is difficult to describe. The other capybaras, when they wish to intimidate, just nibble, nip or bite to get their message across. Momiji is a small capybara and has done very well to achieve such a high ranking in the herd. I believe she has done this by the force of her personality.

These capybaras never bite which always amazes me as not everyone treats them the way they should be treated. Sometimes hordes of noisy schoolchildren descend on them, screaming, shouting and running around and they never seem to be frightened, even when a large number of these children crowd around them and poke sticks up their noses. Some people taunt them by holding out a branch of bamboo and then just as the capybara goes to eat it the human pulls the bamboo out of reach, and then repeats this over and over again. As one wise American mother told her child “once you show the bamboo to the capybara you must feed the capybara”. Other people flick the sleeping capybaras ears or nose continually, seemingly amused that the capybaras ears wriggle or nose wrinkles in response to this rude and thoughtless behaviour. I want to say to these stupid, ignorant people “how would you like it if somebody did that to you when you are trying to sleep?”.

Many people are kind and gentle and loving with the capybaras. However, unlike many zoos in Britain which request that people do not run, shout or scream and behave with respect towards animals, there is no control over how people behave in the capybara enclosure. As a result the older capybaras often prefer to stay away from the visitors. Fortunately, the capybara enclosure was designed with this in mind so the capybaras can escape to the islands, or into the pond, or to an area of the enclosure which is off-limits to the visitors.

Capybara Enclosure Design. Husbandry and Welfare of Capybaras in Zoos and Captive Environments

When designing an enclosure for capybaras it is essential to provide them with an environment in which they can display their natural behaviours. The two most important requirements for a capybara enclosure are a large pond/pool and access to grazing.

Animal Welfare is the foundation of what all good zoos do. We can provide good Animal Welfare by taking a behaviour-based husbandry approach to how we manage animals. That means we do not focus on what we are providing for the animals. Rather we focus on what the animal’s behaviour is telling us that the animals’ need. We do this by recognising that all of the behaviours which an animal exhibits are meaningful, and therefore helpful in informing us about what that animal may need.

Behaviour based husbandry incorporates all elements of good animal welfare: good health, psychological well-being, and the expression of natural behaviours. In addition to the design and enrichment of the enclosure, we MUST also ensure positive human animal relationships. The capybara must have choices so that he/she has some control over his life, his environment and his daily routines, as he would in the wild in his natural habitat.

It is imperative that keepers do not try to control capybaras. Rodents, as a species, are particularly intolerant of being controlled. Keepers must understand capybara behaviour. They must be sensitive to a capybara’s mood and what the capybaras’ behaviour is communicating, otherwise the capybara will suffer stress.

In order to understand capybara behaviour the keeper must immerse himself in the lives of the capybaras in his care. He must learn the relationships between the capybaras in the herd. He must be aware that these relationships may change. He must be able to distinguish between different behaviours in order to understand their significance. A good capybara keeper will intuitively understand animal behaviour. He will need to be sensitive and intelligent. He will need to have the patience and interest in capybara behaviour to spend long hours observing capybara behaviour.

Positive human capybara interactions are the foundation of providing good welfare for the capybaras we manage. These capybaras rely on us to provide for all their needs: food, shelter, enrichment, mating opportunities and companionship. If we are unresponsive, negative, unpredictable or aggressive in our interactions with our capybaras we can create significant stress for them.

At all times it is vitally important that we are aware of how what we do may affect our capybaras.

In 2009 Vicky A. Melfi, Zoologist and Animal Welfare Scientist, Identified three primary gaps in our knowledge and approach to zoo animal welfare. Two of these are relevant to capybaras:

One: We tend to focus on indicators of poor welfare and assume that a lack of poor welfare is equivalent to good welfare. However, a lack of poor welfare does not necessarily indicate good welfare.

Two: it is important that we look at an animal’s housing and husbandry from the perspective of what that species needs and not from a human perspective.

Zoos have traditionally built hygienic enclosures that meet human requirements in terms of cleaning and sweeping and housing structures, but which do not provide for the psychological needs of the animals they are designed to house.

In good zoos today these traditional enclosures have been redeveloped or modified as we recognise that animals have very different behavioural priorities to people. Understanding Animal Behaviour is vital in order to provide appropriate housing and husbandry. It is important to remember that the expression of their natural behaviours has evolved over millions of years and conferred evolutionary success and indeed the survival of this species.

The size of the enclosure should be about one acre or half a hectare for a herd of about 15 capybaras. The size required for the enclosure will depend to some extent on the size of the herd. The landscape of the enclosure should reflect the natural habitat of a capybara living in the wild as far as possible.

pond Donguri eating bamboo

The Large Pond with Trees and Bushes

Capybaras are semiaquatic, and can be very energetic and playful in water, therefore a large pond or pool should be provided. Capybaras are grazing animals, grasses form the staple of their diet, which means they should have access to grass.

 WN Aki escapes to eat grass August 2012

This five year old female capybara escaped from her enclosure where there was no grazing in order to eat grass. Interestingly capybaras often know what food is best for them. The capybaras at one zoo do not like the carrots which are given to them and try to escape in order to eat grass.

It is also essential that the keepers who care for the capybaras have a deep interest in and understanding of capybara behaviour and animal welfare. They must spend time observing the capybaras so that they can recognise behaviours and understand the relationships between the individual capybaras in order that they can manage the herd to ensure the best welfare and to avoid aggression. They should observe the condition of the capybaras including their size/weight, the condition of their coat/hair, how much they eat, how they chew (for possible tooth problems) and any signs of abnormal behaviours so if there are any developing health issues these can be treated at an early stage.

empty pond who stole

This view of the pond when it was emptied for cleaning, gives an idea of the placement of stone ledges and stepping stones which allow the capybaras easy access in and out of the pond, and also provide ledges where the capybaras can rest partially submerged in water.

Capybaras in captivity may be fed pellets and appropriate vegetables to ensure that their dietary requirements are met. There should be a feeding station for each capybara to ensure that every capybara gets enough to eat. If capybaras in a herd are competing for food this will lead to aggression. Once aggression becomes established in the herd it is extremely difficult to eradicate. For this reason every effort should be made to ensure that feeding does not involve competition between capybaras for food. The keepers may need to sit beside and guard some capybaras at the bottom of the hierarchy if they are not getting enough to eat because other larger and more senior (in the hierarchy) capybaras intimidate them and push them away from food.

In their natural habitat in South America researchers have not found evidence of a female hierarchy. However, in captivity where the capybaras are living in a confined environment and sometimes competing for food or facilities, a strong female hierarchy develops. The keepers will need to be observant and ensure the well-being of capybaras at the bottom of the hierarchy. Male capybaras are hierarchical and can be very aggressive to other males including their own adult male offspring.

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Capybaras love to mark  their territory by rubbing their anal scent glands on twigs, as in this photo, branches or other vegetation

If a capybara is so badly injured that he/she has to be taken out of the herd and put in a separate enclosure to recover from the wounds, it will almost certainly be impossible for that capybara to be reintroduced back into the herd. The capybaras most likely to attack an injured capybara are those immediately below the injured capybara in the hierarchy.

Enclosure Enrichment: the purpose of enrichment, both environmental and cognitive, is to ensure the well-being of animals in captivity. Enrichment allows animals to make choices and lead interesting and stimulating lives, and to be able to exhibit their natural behaviours.

The physical enrichment of the enclosure should include:

A large pool or pond. The capybaras should have easy access to this pond or pool. Depending on the number of capybaras the size of the pond/pool should be at least 12 feet/4 m x 24 feet/8 m. Most of this pond should be 4 feet/1.3 m in depth, but some areas should be at shallow depths of 1 and 2 feet, .3 and .6 m, so that the capybara can rest partially submerged in water, and also easily get in and out of the pond/pool. When the weather is hot capybaras go into the water to thermoregulate, i.e. to keep cool. They also seek water as a refuge from danger. In captivity a capybara might be being chased and therefore seek refuge in water. Additionally, if the capybara is injured in some way, perhaps his/her teeth have broken at the root (capybaras have hypsodont teeth which means they grow continually. These broken teeth will grow back in just over two weeks) and the capybara feels vulnerable, he/she will seek refuge in water.

WN pond play

Capybaras are very playful and energetic in the pond or pool. It is essential that this pond/pool is large enough for capybaras to exercise and express their natural behaviours.

Shelter: the enclosure must provide some shelter from sun, heat and rain. This could be provided by trees and bushes, or by a man-made structure.

Enclosures in Cooler Climates: Capybaras prefer a temperature of at least 24°C or 75°F. If the capybara enclosure is in a climate with cold winters than the capybaras must be provided with a sheltered hut with heating to prevent suffering and frostbite.

Grass: it is essential for capybaras to have access to grazing. Capybaras’ digestive system has evolved over 30 million years for a diet of grasses which are high in fibre but low in calories. In their natural habitat, in South America, capybaras eat grasses, aquatic plants, sedges and chew on the bark of bushes and trees. For the health of capybara teeth it is essential that they have access to coarse materials to chew on in order to control the growth of their teeth. Several capybaras in captivity have died because their diet was based on soft foods which did not ensure the health of their teeth. It is essential for animals in captivity to exhibit their natural behaviours and grazing is one of the most important behaviours for a capybara. Capybaras did not evolve to eat two meals a day; they must be allowed to have access to grazing/appropriate food when they are hungry.

Juanita eating grass

It is important that capybaras can graze when they feel hungry.

Diet: the capybara diet should be augmented by the provision of appropriate pellets. If there is insufficient grass to provide enough grazing daily than green leaf vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce etc can also be fed. The vegetable should not have a high sugar content. Capybaras should not eat carrots as carrots have too high a level of Vitamin A and this can cause liver damage. Many capybaras in Japan suffer an early death due to liver damage. Capybaras should also not eat fruit because of the high sugar content. A probiotic like Benebac or Bio 3 can be given to treat mild cases of diarrhoea.

Appropriate Vegetation: this should include branches or palm fronds and perhaps leaves which provide soft bedding for the capybaras to lie on when resting or sleeping. Capybaras like to mark their territory by rubbing their anal scent glands over vegetation such as branches and palm fronds. As mentioned above it is essential for the health of capybara teeth that they have access to coarse vegetation, like branches or palm fronds, to chew on. Some capybaras like to chew on stones. These stones must be hard so that they do not disintegrate in the capybaras mouth when chewed, and get swallowed causing injury to their digestive tract.

It is essential that animals in captivity are able to express their natural behaviours. It is also very important that the visiting public should see how animals behave in their natural habitat.

Romeo swimming

Capybaras are very graceful as they swim in this large pool.

The lives of animals in captivity can be very boring and boredom leads to stress. To avoid boredom and stress the enclosure should provide cognitive and occupational activities to stimulate the minds of the capybaras and encourage physical activity to keep the capybaras healthy.

These enrichment activities can include the appropriate vegetation mentioned above and other natural objects which can be manipulated or played with. Feeding can also be done in a way that provides entertainment for the capybaras. For example, branches of bamboo can be positioned in different parts of the enclosure so that the capybaras have to rise up on their hind legs to eat it or pull it down. Branches of bamboo can be tied to the bushes overhanging the pond/pool so that the capybaras can entertain themselves trying to rise up to eat it. Food pellets can be scattered, or hidden in different areas for the capybaras to find.

The activities described above would also provide cognitive enrichment as the capybaras engage in problem-solving to achieve their food reward.

Sensory and Social Enrichment: capybaras are a highly social and gregarious species. A capybara should never be housed alone, on its own in an enclosure. This would be extremely stressful and would lead to changes in the capybara’s behaviour and personality. Stress levels can be determined by analysing faeces for the presence of stress hormones like cortisol. Extreme stress can lead to changes in the brain structure and an early death.

As capybaras are extremely social and very responsive to tactile stimulation, it is important that the zookeepers responsible for the capybaras pet them and are very friendly. Initially the capybaras may not trust the keeper, so the keeper first has to gain the trust of the capybara in order to get close enough to pet the capybara. To achieve this the keeper could offer food or perhaps a branch of bamboo, and when the capybara comes close to eat the food the keeper can slowly and gently begin to pet the capybara. Capybaras love to be petted; their hair rises, they lie down and roll over and vocalise. Capybara vocalisations include the most beautiful sounds. Positive human animal relationships are vitally important for the well-being of the capybaras living under the care of humans.

If visitors to the zoo will be able to enter the capybara enclosure it is essential that there is an area of the enclosure which is not accessible to these visitors. This is to allow the capybaras to go somewhere private otherwise they may become stressed if they cannot choose whether they wish to be in the company of human visitors or not. Also, ideally, there should be an island in the pond to which the capybaras can go to escape humans.

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Capybaras Enjoy Mud.  They enjoy rolling in mud and it is good for their skins.

Mud: capybaras love to roll in mud. It is good for the condition of their skin and can help to exterminate mites or ticks. Mud provides capybaras with enjoyment and relaxation. Rolling in mud is a natural behaviour which capybaras should be able to exhibit in a captive environment.

 

At all times it is vitally important that we are aware of how what we do may affect our animals.

The basic Animal Welfare protocol is The Five Freedoms:     

Freedom from hunger and thirst: by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.

Freedom from discomfort: by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.

Freedom from pain, injury or disease: by prevention through rapid diagnosis and treatment.

Freedom to express normal behaviour: by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.

Freedom from fear and distress: by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

The Five Welfare Domains: However, The Five Freedoms protocol was developed in 1965 to rectify the suffering of farm animals, i.e. animals used in agriculture. The Five Freedoms protocol simply emphasises what is our basic duty but does not go far enough to ensure the well-being that we would want for animals kept in captivity and in zoos. We need to provide animals with enjoyable and positive experiences. To address this, David Mellor, an Animal Welfare Scientist working in New Zealand, has developed The Five Welfare Domains. The aim of The Five Welfare Domains is to ensure that animals have positive physical and emotional experiences. This is essential for good animal welfare and the well-being of animals in captivity.

 

 

“Theory of Mind”: Capybara Intelligence

There is a long tradition of humans trying to demean animals, their intelligence and emotions. Nowhere is this more insidious than in the field of ethology/animal behaviour. Fortunately this is slowly changing partly due to more sophisticated research technology and partly due to the enlightened research and books by eminent ethologists like Marc Bekoff, Jonathan Balcombe and Jane Goodall among others.

In his important book “Beyond Words. What Animals Think and Feel“, Carl Safina lambasts those ethologists who deny “Theory of Mind” to most animal species. He writes: “Theory of Mind is probably the most underappreciated (in other animal species), oft denied aspect of nonhuman minds.

Choco looking very happy trough

Choco enjoying the Onsen experience from the safety of the water channel. A behaviour he pioneered and which many of the junior capybaras now copy. (See below)

Theory of Mind has a number of different interpretations but broadly speaking it is the ability of an animal to pick up sensory cues which enable him/her to foresee a situation which is about to develop or which the animal wants to influence, and decide on a course of action that will allow the animal to control the outcome and secure a successful result. This means the animal understands what is about to happen and can work out a strategy in advance which it then puts into practice. Carl Safina writes “Theory of Mind basically means understanding that another can have thoughts and motives that differ from yours, or from another animal”. I have put more comments and explanations from Carl Safina on Theory of Mind at the end of this blog.

The following are some of the many examples of capybara behaviour I have witnessed which demonstrate Theory of Mind.

In August of 2015 Donguri injured her right hind leg. The pain was so great that she could barely walk and she often hopped on three legs. Immediately after her injury she made her way to the “hospital room” where sick capybaras are sometimes housed, and stood in the doorway waiting for a keeper to notice her plight and attend to her injury.

Donguri leg injury waits hospital room 2015

Donguri has injured her leg quite seriously. She hobbles to the “hospital room” where sick capybaras are sometimes treated and waits for the keeper to notice her plight.

This showed Theory of Mind. Donguri had a problem and she devised a solution. She knew that one of the roles the humans played in the lives of the capybaras in her herd was to tend to capybaras who were sick or injured. I assume that she had noticed a successful outcome to the humans’ treatment of some of these capybaras. So in going to the “hospital room” Donguri was asking for medical help, which she received with the arrival of the vet shortly after.

About two days later Donguri positioned herself in the centre of the petting area of the capybara enclosure and hobbled around in circles. I have never seen her do this behaviour before so I believe she was trying to attract attention to the fact that she was still suffering and needed more help or more medication.

You can see this behaviour in my video: “A Sad Capybara Story With a Happy Ending”.

As a corollary to this, when the keepers give a capybara a pill they always try to disguise it, sometimes hiding it wrapped in a bamboo leaf. I do not believe Donguri was fooled by this. On another occasion when she ate too many leaves of a bush that was toxic and vomited, I gave her a food pellet. She took the pellet eagerly but then hastily spat it out as if it was not what she had expected. She would have sensed my concern about her health as I sat beside her while she was obviously suffering. (Capybaras are very sensitive to human emotions.) The evidence suggests that she assumed I was giving her a pill to treat her illness, and she had no interest in a food pellet. She views me as a source of food, pellets and bamboo, and her behaviour when taking the pellet and then spitting it out indicated quite clearly that she had expected something other than a food pellet, and given the fact that she was unwell the obvious conclusion is that she expected treatment, i.e. a pill.

Choco in trough distant view

You can see Choco relaxing in the water channel under the white arrow on the left. In the foreground are the more senior capybaras enjoying the Onsen in the conventional manner

The capybaras at the top of the hierarchy at Nagasaki Bio Park control access to the Onsen bath. Most of the junior capybaras are excluded. The senior capybaras, who are all female, particularly do not want neutered male capybaras in their Onsen. Choco and Doughnut are the only neutered males. Choco came up with a solution to this problem and in doing so pioneered a behaviour which other junior capybaras then imitated. The hot water to the Onsen bath flows through a wooden channel, the width of which is about one foot. One day Choco decided to jump into this water channel where he could spend several hours relaxing in the hot water with his nose under the small pipe from which the water flows. He was thus able to enjoy all the benefits of the Onsen bath without attracting any antagonism from the senior capybaras.

This behaviour demonstrates Theory of Mind in that Choco was able to envisage and invent a new behaviour which would allow him to get what he wanted, i.e. relaxing in hot water, in a place which would not put him in direct conflict with the senior capybaras.

Choco is an exceptionally intelligent and creative capybara who has pioneered several new behaviours to the benefit of other junior capybaras.

He has learned how to open the gate to the capybara enclosure and often goes out to feast on any grass he can find. Some of the other capybaras take advantage of this opportunity to escape.

When he was only one-year-old and much smaller, he found himself near the bottom of the hierarchy. As he was not getting enough to eat, he started going inside the monkey house and eating the monkey’s breakfast. Surprisingly, the capuchin monkeys tolerated him but when other capybaras, Ryoko and Aoba, followed his example the monkeys chased them away. It is interesting to speculate on why the monkeys accepted Choco. There is no doubt he has an easy, gentle charm. He is very calm and fearless. The monkeys enjoy taunting and upsetting those capybaras who react the most and become most upset.

Choco in monkey house 2014

Choco coming out of the monkey house after eating the monkeys’ breakfast

“It is amazing how smart capybaras are and unlike most of Brazil’s fauna. They learn the dynamics of the traffic. They know when to stop and how to cross the streets.” Several of my friends who study Brazilian fauna have told me this. They have witnessed families of capybara trying to cross the busy streets. The capybaras wait until the traffic gives way.

“É impressionante como são inteligentes e ao contrário da maioria dos outros animais da nossa fauna, aprendem a dinâmica do trânsito, e como parar ao atravessar ruas. Já testemunhei algumas famílias tentando atravessar, paradas esperando até alguém dar passagem.”

When Marvin (a human) has to leave Romeo and Tuff’n alone in the house he separates them by putting up a barrier which divides the home in two. One capybara gets to be in the bedroom with access to the back garden and swimming pool while the other capybara has access to the living room and front garden. Tuff’n likes to play fight with Romeo but this escalates and Romeo sometimes ends up wounded. Marvin likes to give Romeo access to the back garden so that he doesn’t see Marvin leave. Romeo is bonded with Marvin and gets upset when Marvin leaves the home. Capybaras are herd animals and prey animals and if a member of the herd disappears it probably means they have been killed by a predator. Tuff’n is bonded with Romeo so as long as Romeo is around Tuff’n is happy, he is not upset if Marvin leaves the home. Tuff’n senses what Marvin is about to do and he knows Marvin will try and lure him into the front area. To avoid this he ensures that he is in the bedroom or back garden before the barrier goes up. Whether he prefers the back garden area or whether he just wants to do the opposite of what Marvin wants him to do rather than being controlled by Marvin, is open to debate. Perhaps, like most rodents, he just wants to be in control of his life rather than be controlled by humans.

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Romeo and Tuff’n want to go to the park. They are waiting here to communicate to Marvin that it is time for them to be taken to the park. They have worked out and adopted this behaviour because they can envisage an activity which they will enjoy and they know that by waiting on this mat they will successfully communicate their wishes to Marvin.

One day Marvin was working in the garage and forgot to give Romeo and Tuff’n their afternoon corn at the usual time. On leaving the garage Marvin noticed Romeo sitting by the gate into the front garden. As Marvin entered the front garden Romeo stood up on his hind legs and put his paws on Marvin’s chest. He then looked Marvin straight in the eye. As he did so Tuff’n came over and barked “Corn, Corn”. Tuff’n usually announces the arrival of corn with a vocalisation that comes across as a realistic rendition of the word “corn”.

Tuff’n likes to play with his cushion in the pool. In order to be able to reach the cushion once he is in the pool he has to drag it to the edge of the pool before he jumps in. He then jumps into the pool, swims over to the cushion, pulls the cushion into the water and plays with it. This behaviour shows how Tuff’n is able to visualise or think through in advance a course of behaviour that will allow him to achieve his aim, i.e. pulling the cushion to the edge of the pool so that he can reach it when he is in the pool.

When Elizabeth or Marvin are injured or unwell Romeo and Tuff’n sense their suffering and come over, often laying their heads on the injured area. If their humans spend the day in bed the capybaras will spend the day lying on the bed showing an understanding of the humans’ suffering and a desire to show sympathy, affection and make them feel better. Capybaras are very sensitive to emotions, both the emotions of other capybaras and to the emotions of humans. They become very upset if humans argue in their presence. They need to be sensitive to the mood and emotional state of the other capybaras in their herd in order to avoid aggression.

Deception, the ability to deceive, is also cited by ethologists as proof of “Theory of Mind”. On one occasion I was visiting Garibaldi Rous. He had been rolling in the mud and knew that he was not allowed to go inside the house when he was covered in mud. So he took a circuitous route around the garden before suddenly veering off to the left and into the house.

In all these examples the capybara knows what is about to happen and has worked out, or invented, a strategy, a course of behaviour which solves his problem and ensures a successful outcome. This is evidence of “Theory of Mind”.

Humans often judge animals by behaviours which are appropriate to the lives of humans but not to the lives of the animals they are testing. Humans would fail miserably in many of the situations in which the different animal species excel.

As Carl Safina writes, most animal species could not go about their daily life without Theory of Mind. “The term “Theory of Mind” was coined in 1978 by researchers testing chimpanzees. With an impressive lack of human insight into what could be an appropriate context or meaningful to a chimp they devised an experiment so artificial” that, as sometimes happens, the academically generated concepts failed to elicit the capabilities that the scientists were trying to investigate. (For the full description of these absurd tests please see page 244 of Carl Safina’s book “Beyond Words. What Animals Think and Feel.” As Carl Sarafina writes “any ecologist who watches free living animals feels humbled by the depth and nuance of how they negotiate the world” and how easily they evade human observation as they go about their daily lives keeping themselves and their babies alive. Many animals, like capybaras, are highly skilled in reading body language and use other senses, including a sense of smell, to detect and authenticate a situation.

Carl Safina writes “Rather than “testing” animals in contraptions and setups where they cannot be who they are, we might simply define the concept we are interested in, then watch the animals in situations appropriate to their lives. Real life behaviours and decisions cannot always be elicited under experimental lab conditions. Do animals show an understanding that others hold different thoughts and agendas and can even be fooled? Yes. It is happening all around us. But you have to have your eyes open. Lab psychologists and philosophers of behaviour often don’t seem to know about how perceptions function in the real world. I wish they would go outside and watch.”

Juanita’s Story. A Baby Capybara Rescued from Her Mother’s Womb 母親の子宮から救助された

Juanita’s Story: A Baby Capybara Who Was Rescued from Her Mother’s Womb, and Survived Against All Odds, After Hunters Killed Her Mother. フアニタの話。 母親の子宮から救出されたベビーカピバラ。 ハンターズは母親を殺した。 驚くほど赤ちゃんは生き残った。

WN on the bed to

Juanita on the Bed Looking Dreamy

Gunshots rang out in the cold night air of the jungle followed by a sickening thud. Juan’s heart sank. He had seen three capybaras running for their lives through the undergrowth… when he reached her still warm body his heart sank further. One of the capybaras was a heavily pregnant female with three babies in her womb. Two of the babies had been injured by the hunter’s bullets but Juan was able to rescue the third pup.

 This was little Juanita’s introduction to the world of humans.

WN baby in daddy's arms telephone

Juan Holding Baby Juanita

Juanita’s story begins in Esquina in the province of Corrientes in Argentina, about eight hours drive from the capital Buenos Aires. It is a beautiful area but there is also much poverty and ignorance. Rivers are polluted with garbage even though many people rely on fishing for their sustenance. There is indiscriminate killing of wild animals even when this is illegal as is the case with hunting capybaras. Hunters frequently use packs of dogs which are deliberately underfed. There is often a total disregard for the welfare of animals.

As a boy, Juan often spent vacations with his family in Esquina, and the family now own a home there. Over the years Juan made many friends in the area some of whom go hunting. They repeatedly asked Juan to join them when they go hunting for wild boar. As an animal lover Juan has no desire to kill animals.

WN very cute One day old

Juanita, Just One Day Old

One night in Esquina Juan and Victoria very reluctantly join the group on a hunt for wild boar. On the far side of the lake Juan notices a large capybara watching them. Then to his horror one of the group begins to take aim. Juan tries to stop him but three shots ring out before he can intervene. Seconds earlier there had been three capybaras, now two are dead. Juan is very angry and very upset.

Juan’s heart sinks further when he discovers that one of the dead capybaras is heavily pregnant. The hunters have already begun to cut open the pregnant capybara as Juan approaches. Inside there are three baby capybaras. Two have been injured by the hunter’s bullets but Juan thinks the third pup might have a chance. Juan rescues her and ties her umbilical cord. Then he gently massages her until she begins to breathe. All this time Victoria has been sitting in the Jeep, her head bent down and covered in coats, trying to block out the tragedy that is unfolding for this capybara family in the cold night air of the jungle. Juan puts this tiny, vulnerable bundle of life inside his jacket and walks over to Victoria and tells her to keep the baby warm. Carpincha, the name they initially give her (carpincha is the Argentinian name for a female capybara) snuggles in Victoria’s warm lap. It is five in the morning now and the baby capybara has had nothing to eat. They find a pharmacy and buy some milk and baby formula. As soon as they get back to their cottage Victoria goes on the Internet desperate to find information on how to feed and look after a capybara. She can find no information and breaks down in tears, certain that little Carpincha is going to die.

WN 5 hours after rescue eyes closed

Juanita Five Hours After She is Rescued From Her Mother’s Womb

It starts to rain and Juan decides to return to Buenos Aries immediately as there will be fewer police checks when it is raining and they need to get Carpincha to a vet.

Victoria wraps Carpincha in a blanket and hides her in her rucksack at her feet. She is so afraid the police will stop them and discover the little capybara and take her away. After some time Victoria notices that Carpincha has not moved. Victoria panics and tells Juan to stop the car. Carefully they lift the small bundle out of the rucksack, their hearts beating, fearing the worst. To their immense relief Carpincha is still breathing. The heat and suffocation have caused her to pass out.

In the fresh air Carpincha begins to revive. Victoria gives her some milk and they continue their journey with the baby capybara sitting on Victoria’s lap. Victoria is increasingly fearful and sad that this little capybara entrusted into their care will not survive. This little bundle of life, so fragile, vulnerable and trusting has completely captured her heart.

WN sleeping beautiful face

Juanita Sleeping

They decide to call her Juanita, after Juan who rescued her and saved her life.

Early the next day Victoria takes little Juanita to the neighbourhood vet, but he knows nothing about capybaras. With mounting concern Victoria calls the zoo and speaks to their vet. Everything they have been doing is wrong. Capybaras cannot digest cow’s milk. Capybaras are lactose intolerant which means they cannot drink the milk of most other mammals.

On day four Juanita has diarrhoea which gets worse as the hours pass. Juanita becomes weaker. Victoria is becoming desperate. She phones an equine vet and he gives her the phone number of the leading exotic animal vet in the country, Dr Fernando Pedrosa. Victoria immediately phones him and makes an appointment to see him as soon as possible that day. She also finally gets the correct information on what to feed a capybara.

WN Victoria kisses J

Victoria Kisses Juanita

Dr Pedrosa tells her that Juanita has no chance of surviving. She has not had colestrum, found in a mother’s milk during the first five days of lactation, and considered essential to provide the antibodies the little capybara will need to fight off infections. Dr Pedrosa also says that the circumstances of her birth were so stressful that this will also undermine her chances of survival. On that day Juanita weighs 1200 grams.

The vet also tells Victoria to feed the little capybara lots of grass and green vegetables to overcome the diarrhoea.

Victoria leaves Dr Pedrosa’s office with a heavy heart, fighting back the tears.

The next few months are extremely stressful for Victoria and Juan, wondering if their little capybara will survive. Some days Juanita refuses to eat. However she likes to suck on clothes, so Victoria covers the nipple of Juanita’s milk bottle with gauze and Juanita begins to suckle.

WN J with Victoria

Juanita with Victoria

Against The Odds Juanita Has Survived. This Is Her Life Today:

Now two and a half years on Juanita is a thriving female capybara. Victoria and Juan through their devotion and commitment have kept Juanita alive against all odds.  She has stolen the heart of everyone who meets her. Victoria and Juan have moved house in order to provide her with the large, grass filled garden and swimming pool she needs.

WN one very muddy

Capybaras Love Mud and Mud is Very Good for Their Skin

When Victoria discovered that she was five weeks pregnant Juanita already knew this and had begun to act like a baby again, calling her with shrill whistles at 3 AM in the morning like she used to do when she was a baby and sucking on Victoria’s fingers for a long, long time until Victoria’s fingers began to hurt. I believe that Juanita could smell the hormonal changes that Victoria was experiencing which are probably similar to those of other mammals including capybaras. Juanita was two and one half years old at the time and it is interesting to speculate on her behaviour. Was she trying to tell Victoria that they didn’t need another baby, that she Juanita could be their baby again.

WN grazing in her large garden                               WN swimming in her large pool

Juan and Victoria moved house in order to give Juanita a large swimming pool and a huge grassy garden. Capybaras are semiaquatic. Their feet are partially webbed. Capybaras love to swim and play in water. They also mate and defecate in water. When the weather is very hot they go into water to thermoregulate, i.e. to make sure they do not get to It is essential that capybaras have access to grazing when ever they want. Grass is the most important constituent in their diet. In the wild capybaras eat grass, aquatic plants, and sage

Like all capybaras Juanita is very territorial and likes to mark her territory, which includes marking wallets, jackets and everything belonging to visitors. She is very frightened of the sound of barking dogs; do they evoke a memory of that fateful day when hunters with a pack of dogs murdered her mother?

JWM helping out in the kitchen

Juanita Likes To Take Charge in the Kitchen

Capybaras are very intelligent and emotionally they are very sensitive and sophisticated. Naturally they would like to control you if they can. I know from research that rats do not like to be controlled or to have their environment controlled. They want to be in control of their lives and I am sure it is the same with capybaras.

Juanita respects Victoria more when Victoria is firm with her and shows that she, Victoria, is higher in the hierarchy.

J with baby boxer dog WN

Juanita Loves Baby the Boxer

Juanita’s family now includes a hen and a rooster, who terrified her to begin with but who have now become firm friends. Victoria’s sister gave her a poodle. At first Juanita hated that poodle, a rival for the love of the humans she has bonded with. Several times Juanita tried to bite the poodle but these days she and the poodle have settled into a love/hate relationship. Juanita loves the family’s boxer dog, Baby and often sleeps nestled between Baby’s paws.

WN sitting on daddy's lap

Juanita, Now Two and a Half Years Old

Juanita likes to sleep with her head resting on Juan. If Juan is out of the house she likes to sleep curled up on Juan’s clothes. His smell seems to reassure her and give her comfort; the man who saved her life.

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 anal pocket. Capybaras have the cleanest bottoms as their anus and reproductive organs are hidden inside their anal pocket 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 this blissful state 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.

How to Make a Baby Capybara Very Happy 赤ちゃんカピバラをとても幸せにする方法 Zabon’s male baby who has inherited his father, Kona’s, love of being petted.  Kona is the most responsive capybara I have ever met;  he loves being petted.  Kona came from a petting zoo in Osaka but sadly at Nagasaki Bio Park it is very difficult for visitors to pet him and his life is very stressful.

Some capybaras love to be rubbed under their chins. Most baby capybaras 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 bliss 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. Most 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 may need to keep moving between the different areas to create the greatest response. If you just keep rubbing one place the response may begin to die down.

How To Make 3 Capybaras Blissfully Happy  3人のカピバラをとても幸せにする  Choco, Cookie in the middle, Cream nearest the camera.  Cookie was probably the most responsive capybara at Nagasaki Bio Park to being petted. If you stroked her under her chin, she would go into a trance as in this video.

 

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