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.

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.

WN scent marking capybara straddling plant for a blog

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, sage 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.

20% May 16 2014 Mud 045

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.

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. It is essential that the enclosure and husbandry provides the animal with choices so that the animal has some control over its life, its environment and its daily routines, as it would in the wild in its natural habitat.

Positive human animal interactions are the foundation of providing good welfare for the animals we manage. These animals 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 animals 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 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.

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 a vital component to providing appropriate housing and husbandry. It is important to remember that the expression of these behaviours has evolved over millions of years and conferred evolutionary success and indeed the survival of this species.

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

wn-how-to-pet-blog

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Tags:   wn-how-to-pet-blogКак домашнее животное водосвинку, How To Pet A Capybara, Nagasaki Bio Park, 長崎バイオパーク,  Capybara, Adorable, Cute, かわいい、Animal, カピバラ、 Rodent, かわいい, Giant Hamster, カピバラ、Capy, 靖,rat, carpincho, очаровательны милые водосвинка,べる,   同情、капибара, 水, 豚 水豚, capivara, chiguire, ronsoco, ゆず,  Pouffy,、長崎バイオパーク、professional quality HD, プロフェッショナル品質のHD、stereo, カピバラをマッサージする方法, erogenous, zones, Momiji, How to pet a capybara,

 

 

 

If You Want a Capybara to Sit in Your Lap Go to Nagasaki Bio Park. あなたは好きですか?愛情カピバラ?あなたの上に座って?長崎バイオパークに行きます

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.

Choco on Marc's lap

Choco

 

This is the video: If You Want a Capybara To Sit in Your Lap Go to Nagasaki Bio Park カピバラの愛情あなたの上に座って

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdNE6omkqvM

                                                                                         

Choco in particular loves sitting on visitors’ laps. One of the reasons for this is protection. The senior capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park do not like Choco, particularly Maple and Hinase. Maple will chase him right across the enclosure but since Choco can out run Maple, Choco is never in danger of being attacked unless he is cornered. The reason the senior capybaras don’t like Choco is partly because he is a neutered male and he doesn’t smell right because of his neutering. The female capybaras adore full-blooded males!

 

 

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!

 

Also Choco is low in the hierarchy but he wants everything the senior capybaras have and because he is quite fearless he is not submissive. If Choco wants something he goes for it.  He wants to enjoy the Onsen even when the senior capybaras are there whereas most of the junior capybaras wait until the senior capybaras have left or go into the Onsen before they arrive. To avoid being attacked Choco has taken to jumping up into the trough through which the water flows to the Onsen. This allows him to enjoy the benefits of the Onsen without usually attracting the attention of Hinase and Maple.

 

40% WN Choco in trough whole Onsen view

You can see Choco in the water trough (below the arrow on the left of the photo) above the main Onsen Bath. Maple is sprawled out under the 2 showers. 4 other capybaras are enjoying the Onsen Bath

 

25% Choco in trough

Choco in Water Channel Trough

 

Ryoko came and sat on Marc’s lap, not looking for food, but just to make friends. I believe it was because she had seen us there almost every day for 6 months, which is very unusual for visitors! She decided it might be useful to have us as friends. She is a very clever capybara and the only young capybara who has been completely accepted by the senior capybaras. I would love to know why; what it is about her behaviour and personality that has made her accepted by these senior capybaras.

 

30% 2 Ryoko sitting on Marc's lap

Ryoko

 

Aoba will sit on visitors’ laps but she is usually hoping to be fed.

30% WN JPEG Aoba and Masakazu SnapShot(5)

Aoba

 

Gin jumped into my lap the first day we visited the Bio Park.  In cold weather Hinase will sometimes sit on visitors’ laps for the extra warmth.

 

40% Choco on Lady's lap

Choco

 

Maple likes humans. She knows how to attract people and everyone seems to feed her even though she doesn’t need any extra food, being the chubbiest capybara I have ever seen. She will jump up beside you and depending on her mood she will wait very patiently to be fed or petted, or if she is hungry she will nibble you until you feed her.

 

22% superior looking Choco on Lady's lap

Choco Looking Very Pleased with Himself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donguri was also very tolerant of badly behaved humans.

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

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

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

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

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

Aoba on the left in a very serious fight with Cookie

Aoba on the left in a very serious fight with Cookie

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

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

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

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

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

Here is my description posted with the video:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20 Sep 2014 JPEG 178 crop nasty Swan attacks Ricki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yuzu, lying lifelessly at the far side of her enclosure

Yuzu, lying lifelessly at the far side of her enclosure

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Here is a video I made of Yuzu:

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

Yuzu Looking Very Sad and Sorry for Herself

Yuzu Looking Very Sad and Sorry for Herself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yuzu made a full recovery.

ゆずは今健康である

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The Sacred Golden Capybara 聖なる黄金カピバラ

45% Brilliant Romeo Gordon mud Capy crop May 16 2014 Mud 057

Romeo

The Sacred Golden Mud Capy, Revered and Worshipped for Thousands of Years For His Spiritual Inspiration and Healing Powers.
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                       Many people have discovered the healing powers of capybara.
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If you live with a capybara who loves you, and you are ill or in pain the capybara will come and lie beside you all day to mitigate your suffering. Capybara may lay his head on the injured area of your body and you will find this a source of comfort and inspiration, and you will undoubtedly feel better.
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If you are stressed and facing difficult challenges in your life, thinking of capybaras will ensure you relax and relieve your stress, helping you to focus more clearly and positively on your path ahead.

People who live in harmony with a capybara often find they no longer get ill.

 

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Whenever I am surrounded by loud, noisy unpleasant people, I imagine they are all gentle, chuckling capybaras and I instantly feel better. Capybaras make the most wonderful, cute, gentle chuckling sounds when they are happy and content.

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When you go to bed at night you will hear a distant happy chuckling coming closer and closer. Then Capybara will jump up on the bed beside you, lay his head on your shoulder or under your chin, and snuggle up as close as possible to you.

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Capybara will continue to converse with you making happy chuckles in response to your chuckles. This conversation is amazing to witness and takes communication between humans and capybaras to an altogether higher, more mystical plane, which very few people experience.

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To have this inspirational and spiritually rewarding relationship with a capybara you must be tuned in to its emotional needs. You must love him so much that you automatically want to put the capybara’s needs before your own. Many capybaras become aggressive because the people they are living with do not understand them.

This blog is dedicated to Romeo, an exceptional Capybara. Capybaras are an exceptional species

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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。

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:: https://capybaraworld.wordpress.com/2012/09/23/how-to-get-to-nagasaki-bio-park-to-see-the-adorable-capybaras-of-course-there-are-lots-of-other-animals-many-of-which-you-can-pet-and-botanical-gardens-its-very-easy/

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

https://capybaraworld.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/the-capybaras-at-nagasaki-bio-park-%E9%95%B7%E5%B4%8E%E3%83%90%E3%82%A4%E3%82%AA%E3%83%91%E3%83%BC%E3%82%AF%E3%81%AE%E3%82%AB%E3%83%94%E3%83%90%E3%83%A9/

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

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

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

 

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdNE6omkqvM

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

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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

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

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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.

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

 

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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaaaVHh-nh8 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).

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

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.

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

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!

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

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.

Sweet, Affectionate Yuzu.

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.

Kobuko, Wonderful Old Kobuko, 13 years old

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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.

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… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Z6o5DC3–2A

 

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.

Capybaras Playing

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: https://capybaraworld.wordpress.com/2012/09/23/how-to-get-to-nagasaki-bio-park-to-see-the-adorable-capybaras-of-course-there-are-lots-of-other-animals-many-of-which-you-can-pet-and-botanical-gardens-its-very-easy/

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:   http://www.youtube.com/user/rangdaaaa/videos?view=0

Capybaras Resting on Capuchin island

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

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.

リンダロンバルディ(動物に関する有名な作家)は、日本のカピバラのこの歴史を書き込みます。非常に興味深い。賛美長崎バイオパーク

http://www.tofugu.com/2014/01/06/japan-capybaras-and-me-a-love-story/

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

Red and Green Macaws from South America

The Tapirs got very excited during a thunder storm, frolicing and canoodling in their pond: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDOeN-mxYDY

Tapir

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: http://www.biopark.co.jp/en/guidemap/

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Here is a blog in French about Nagasaki Bio Park with lots of excellent photos including lots of photos of the capybaras:
http://www.anaisetpedro.com/divers/japon-2015-le-bio-park-de-sasebo-a-nagasaki/comment-page-1/#comment-356704

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