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


I am afraid I have had to remove the photos as some nasty person has been removing the watermark from my photos and uploading them to the internet. It is illegal to remove the watermark.

 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.


This is the perfect enclosure for a capybara: lots of grass and a large pond. Photo by Martin MurmelTier Hees

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.

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.

 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Capybara Diet. Includes Treatments for Dietary Health Issues.


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

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.

NWN Fluffy Momiji 219 24 Aug 2014

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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Visiting Nagasaki Bio Park: The Best Place In The World To Be With Capybaras. 客員長崎バイオパーク:カピバラを表示するには、世界で最高の場所。

            I am afraid I have had to remove the photos as some nasty person has been removing the watermark from my photos and uploading them to the internet. It is illegal to remove the watermark.

The Biopark has a beautiful location, set over wooded hills on the stunning Saikai peninsular. Anyone who loves nature and animals will enjoy visiting, quite apart from meeting the exceptional capybaras.

For information on how to get to Nagasaki Bio Park, including from Tokyo Narita Airport::

Here is a blog I have written about the capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park. Like humans they are all individuals and have different personalities. And of course like humans you can recognise them by their faces – they all look different. Visiting them is so much more interesting when you know who they are

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

This is the magical sound a mother capybara makes when her babies are suckling. The mother capybara goes into a trance and you can see her nose vibrating as she sings:

Missing photos:  Little baby Io. The youngest capybara, just 5 months old

Butter and Cookie, Maple’s babies, 6 weeks old. They always sleep together, resting their heads on each other. バターやクッキー。メープルの赤ちゃん。 6週齢。常に一緒に寝ます  

Having a capybara come over to you and sit affectionately in your lap is the most wonderful experience. Many of the capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park will sit on the laps of visitors these days.

This is one of my favourite baby capybara videos: Doughnut being nibbled by Macaroni and Choco. Macaroni is the most enthusiastic nibbler.

Missing photo:  Baby Aoba loves to sleep on top of her mother Momiji. Momiji is a fantastic mother. おめでとう!リトル青葉はミイラもみじの上で寝大好き。もみじは素晴らしい母親であります 

One of the joys of the visit was hand feeding the capybaras.   They are so gentle as they take a pellet from you with their soft lips, and then tenderly rub their lips over your hand almost like a kiss, making their happy, chuckling call of gratitude and pleasure.

You can see just how affectionate the capybaras are at Nagasaki Bio Park in this video:

Syu is the most affectionate capybara I’ve ever met. シュー非常に愛情のカピバラ.  Syu was the sweetest capybara, very affectionate. He often used to put his nose up to my lips when I petted him.

Syu was the sweetest capybara, very affectionate. He often used to put his nose up to my lips when I petted him.


Missing photo:  Many of the capybaras will come and sit in your lap. Sometimes you may have to entice them by offering food, however in this photo Ryoko came and sat on my husband’s lap of her own volition. She looked so happy as she snuggled up to him 

Watching the Capybaras frolicking in their enormous pond was enchanting.   They are just so playful;  Great Grandmother Donguri, leader of the Bio Park herd loves to ride piggyback on her daughters.  The youngest Capybaras love riding piggy back on the older ones.  Several Capybaras might play ‘tug of war’ with a piece of bamboo.  They have mock fights and chases, or sometimes just nuzzle each other.   Nuzzling under the chin, a very sensitive spot,  brings on that amazing blissful state, where the hair rises (pilo-erection) and they go into a state of ecstasy.   Yasushi, the Boss Capybara (ie the breeding male) loves being nuzzled under his chin;   he is very amorous and sensuous.   This nuzzling can sometimes be accompanied by nips and the very occasional squeal.

Missing photo:  Yasushi Being Nuzzled by Donguri. He Looks so Happy 

Yasushi is adored by all the female Capybaras who follow him around and nuzzle him frequently under the chin in the pond.   He rolls over in ecstasy, sinking under the water and looks completely towsled and dazed when he surfaces.  Watching the Capybaras is a priceless experience, not to be missed for the world.   You can watch Yasushi being nuzzled in this video:

Missing photo:  Yasushi, King of Capybaras, All the Females Adore Him. Me Too. He Has So Much Charisma 

Yasushi is the only adult male;  he is the breeding male, known as the Boss in Japan.  He will spend about 3 years as the breeding male before a new male replaces him.   So the frolic is often amorous if Yasushi is involved.    He is also a wonderful father, always willing to take time off from his love making to play with his son, baby Io,  as in this video: Little Io knows all the right strings to pull when it comes to playing with his Dad….like sucking father Yasushi’s ears, something Yasushi loves and which sends him into that amazing blissful state which Yasushi does so well with his amazingly long hair (see Photo above).

Missing photo:  Yasushi. He was the most wonderful Boss Capy, as the breeding male is called; very charismatic, caring and sensuous. He had the most beautiful long hair and he loved to be petted. 康。優れた上司カピバラ。美しい長い髪。素晴らしい人格。撫でするのが好きでした 

I hadn’t realised just how playful, and captivating, to watch Capybaras are when playing in groups in a large body of water.

Missing photo:  Donguri and her little son Io often play together in the pond. Here he is nuzzling his mother under the chin, which she adores 

And then there is the pampering.  Walking in to their enclosure  and seeing 14 capybaras sitting there, sweet and docile, just waiting to be petted is an experience I wouldn’t miss for the world.  Yasushi with his long hair, all pouffy, his mouth open in ecstasy, showing his beautiful teeth….or little baby Io, so soft and small, responding to your rubs and scratches….looking so, so happy.   Sweet, gentle Donguri, who mostly didn’t want any heavy duty scratching or pampering…she seemed happy to just sit beside me while I gently stroked her, only very occasionally rolling over to be pampered and going  pouffy.  Capybaras often like a vigorous scratch;  they have thick skin.   This is more stimulating, but often the Capybaras prefer more gentle pampering. They love being rubbed on their bottoms, as the sign on the Information Board says.  Their bottom is also furthest away from their teeth!

Missing photos:  Donguri, Sweet, Patient Gentle Donguri. My Favorite; the Gentlest Capybara in the Bio Park. Mother or Grandmother of 9 of the 14 Capys there. 

Donguri, number one in the Bio Park hierarchy. She is a wonderful leader, very wise, very compassionate. She watches over the herd and gives support to any capybara who is suffering or who is in a separate enclosure and missing the herd

Beautiful, affectionate Syu … deemed one of the most intelligent of the capys, one of the few capybaras who would come when called (though not by name as they do not know their names).

Maple, her mother Keide and Aki (no 1 in the hierarchy and Donguri’s younger sister, though quite different in personality) love to escape in search of long, green grass.  They will split up, waiting by the entry and exit gates, making it impossible for anyone to enter or leave without at least one capybara getting out.

Poor old Kobuko (the late Kobuko) had a gate stupidly slammed on her,  when she was half way through, to fruitlessly try to prevent from her getting out.

Missing photo:  Nina, 7 months old at the time of this photo, a young male who loves being fed and pampered. He will move to another ‘zoo’ when he is about one year old. Male capybaras tend to fight…. 

There is nothing as magical as 15 Capybara singing in unison.   This chorus goes on for up to half an hour or longer.   Some afternoons we were treated to the chorus on at least 2 or 3 occasions over the course of the afternoon, other afternoons no  chorus at all.   First there is watermelon time, followed by napping and pampering.   One or two Capys make their escape to the freedom of the pond, while the others remain in the pampering area.   Then the magical, singing chorus starts as the Capybaras begin to think about moving en masse into the water.  After about 10 minutes the exodus begins.  The 4 youngest tend to be reluctant to leave since they get the most pampering and feeding, and they know that if they stay behind every visitor who comes into their enclosure will buy at least one container of ‘Capybara’ pellets to feed them.

Missing photo:  Momiji, Sharpening her Teeth, at the Entrance to the Capybara Hideaway. For Part of Each Day the Capybaras Disappear Completely under the Walkway, on the Far Side of this Netting. You can often Hear their Magical Sounds, though

Reluctantly the young ones join the others in their hiding place under the walkway.   Their ‘singing’ continues to fill the air, the most captivating sound you can imagine.    This chorus is also triggered by thoughts of escape.  On several days some of the capybaras, occasionally as many as 8 or 10, have gathered beside the entrance/exit gates waiting for an opportune moment to make their escape.  It is always the same 5 who make it to freedom.  These include Maple, her mother Keide and Aki.  On Thursday, 9th August,  there would have been a very successful mass exodus if Marc hadn’t been there to keep pushing them back in, and direct people away from opening the gate right in front of a capy intent on escape.

I hope the capys don’t hold it against ME, that Marc prevented them from escaping.   Only Keide escaped this time.   Her goal was the grassy hillside just round the corner from the Capybara enclosure.   She looked a little concerned to be separated from the herd.   And most of the Capybaras followed her trail from within the enclosure, walking along the boundary, looking very worried that she had become separated from the flock.  Yasushi, in particular, looked very paternalistic and concerned, as if he felt responsible for his flock of Capybaras.

Sometimes Kaede goes to visit Ran, the future Boss Capybara.  He is in solitary confinement in a small pen with nowhere to swim, so her visits are a real boost for his spirits.  (Not that she can get into his enclosure;  they can only sniff each other, separated by a tall concrete wall.)

Aki Sets Offf on her Great Adventure, having First had her Fill of Lush Green Grass

Everything comes alive with the magical sound of singing Capybaras.    You can hear them calling in this video.  In real life it is a million times more magical….more than a million times even…

What I find interesting is how little the proximity of large numbers of visitors has impacted on the group dynamic of this ‘herd’.   It’s almost as if the humans provide entertainment (pampering and feeding) the way a human might go to a Spa or restaurant.  As it is mainly a procession of strangers who visit the capybara enclosure,  the capybarass don’t bond with people the way a pet capybara does, so the social ties of the herd are not affected and are as strong as with a wild herd.   The Bio Park is only open 9-5 (5.30 in August) so the rest of the time they are free of humans.

In 2013 and 2014 the Boss Capy, ie the male capybara, was kept in a separate, small enclosure.  This is not ideal and creates a great deal of stress and frustration for both the female capybaras and the male, who want to be together as they would be in their natural habitat.

Missing photos:  Capybaras Playing Affectionately

If anyone wants any information on how to get there and where to stay:

Here is a link to my blog giving complete details on how to get to Nagasaki Bio Park from Tokyo, Sasebo or Nagasaki. There is information on accommodation as well:

The Bio Park is in Saikai National Park, an incredibly beautiful area in north western Kyushu.  Rural and undeveloped, with stunning seascapes, mountains and over 200 small islands.  There are golf courses as well, but I can’t imagine you would want them. More Videos of these Irristable Animals at:

Missing photo:  Capybaras Resting on Capuchin island 

Here’s a film NHK, the National Broadcaster in Japan, made of our visit to Nagasaki Bio Park;  the Capybaras are natural thespians:

Because of ‘zoos’ like Nagasaki Bio Park, where visitors can mingle with and pet the Capybaras, there are many more people who adore Capybaras in Japan, than in any other country.      

Linda Lombardi, one of the leading writers about animals in the Western world, has written this very informative and well researched piece about the history of Capybaras in Japan.


  Of course there are many other animals at Nagasaki Bio Park.

Other animals you can see include: meerkats, beaver, prairie dogs, hippos, mara, coati, small clawed otter, Red Panda in winter, ring tailed lemur, rock hyrax, giraffe, zebra, ostrich, capuchin monkeys and many more.

There is also a petting zoo by the entrance to Nagasaki Bio Park, P A W (which stands for Pet Animal World), where you can pet guinea pigs, marmoset and many other small animals, and also dogs.

Red and Green Macaws from South America

The Tapirs got very excited during a thunder storm, frolicing and canoodling in their pond:

If you walk past the spectacularly colored flamingoes at about 4.30, when they are waiting to be fed, their evocative calls recreate the sounds of the tropics, transporting you to some far off land.

Spectacularly Colored Flamingoes

There is also the Botanical Flower Dome where you can see a profusion of brilliantly colored tropical flowers

Many Different Beautiful Types of Orchids are in in the Flower Dome

Many Different Beautiful Types of Orchids are in in the Flower Dome

In the Flower Dome

In the Flower Dome

Here is a link to the Bio Park website:














Here is a blog in French about Nagasaki Bio Park with lots of excellent photos including lots of photos of the capybaras:


























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