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

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

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

WN 40% Hinase intense look 26 August 2017 038

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

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

 

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

WN 40% cute Hinase sleeping 22 June 2017 039

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

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

WN 40% Hinase pond 25 September 2017 013

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

WN crop Hinase rubbing morillo pond 03 July 2017 008

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

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

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

WN 40% crop Hinase relaxing 19 September 2017 015

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

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

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

WN 40% beautiful Hinase sleeping 22 June 2017 040

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

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

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

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

WN 40% Hinase 01 October 2017 099

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

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

Advertisements

Capybara Teeth. カピバラの歯, Dientes de capivara, Зубы Капибары, 水豚牙,

WN Crop 40% Choco Yawn 07 September 2017 015

Choco

Another striking feature of capybara is their unpaired, ever-growing cheek teeth whose very complicated occlusal surface design changes throughout the capybara’s life. Capybaras like horses and rabbits have high crowned teeth, known as hypsodont teeth, an adaptation to extend the life of teeth and therefore the life of the animal. In these teeth the roots delay their development and the crown keeps on growing throughout the life of the animal. In capybaras the occlusal morphology of their cheek teeth is so peculiar that a special nomenclature (system of names) had to be developed to describe them! This very intricate occlusal surface design grows more complex throughout the capybara’s life. They are able to reduce the plants they eat to very small particles which aids the absorption of nutrients.   Capybara teeth are razor sharp.

more teeth and jaws

In the wild, in their natural habitat, capybaras eat primarily grasses, sage and aquatic plants. They also chew on the bark of trees and bushes. These coarse foods ensure the health of capybara teeth. It is essential for capybaras who are kept in captive environments, such as zoos or as pets, to have a diet which replicates as closely as possible their natural diet in the wild. This means they must have access to coarse foods. Several pet capybaras have died due to tooth problems which developed as a result of the wrong diet. The capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park chew on stones to keep their teeth healthy. They also chew on palm fronds.

Capybaras often chew on stones, bark or twigs to keep their teeth healthy:

With hypsodont teeth the roots delay their development and the crown keeps on growing throughout the life of the animal. Hypsodonty is an adaptation to extend the life of the teeth and thereby the life of the animal. Rates of tooth decay may be influenced by eating more abrasive plant tissues, or plants on which wear inducing particles such as windblown grit adhering to the surface of the plant. Hypsodonty is also related to open environments in which animals feed closer to the ground.

WN 40% Hinase yawning 01 October 2017 063

Hinase

teeth and jaws

yasushi-yawning-2012-august-capybara-world

Yasushi

WN JPEG Donguri yawning video SnapShot(0)

Donguri, the capybara who owned me

head skull

Head skull

“Theory of Mind”: Capybara Intelligence

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

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

Choco looking very happy trough

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

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

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

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

Donguri leg injury waits hospital room 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Choco in trough distant view

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choco in monkey house 2014

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

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

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

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

1479177_674064192639013_1294108828_n

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WN on the bed to

Juanita on the Bed Looking Dreamy

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

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

WN baby in daddy's arms telephone

Juan Holding Baby Juanita

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

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

WN very cute One day old

Juanita, Just One Day Old

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

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

WN 5 hours after rescue eyes closed

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

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

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

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

WN sleeping beautiful face

Juanita Sleeping

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

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

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

WN Victoria kisses J

Victoria Kisses Juanita

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

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

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

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

WN J with Victoria

Juanita with Victoria

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

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

WN one very muddy

Capybaras Love Mud and Mud is Very Good for Their Skin

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

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

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

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

JWM helping out in the kitchen

Juanita Likes To Take Charge in the Kitchen

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

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

J with baby boxer dog WN

Juanita Loves Baby the Boxer

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

WN sitting on daddy's lap

Juanita, Now Two and a Half Years Old

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

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

wn-how-to-pet-blog

 

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

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

Capybaras love to be petted near their 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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Donguri  どんぐり

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.
Hinase

Hinase

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

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

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

Maple

Maple

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

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

Momiji

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

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

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

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

Zabon

17% crop WN Zabon 4th August 2015 058

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

Gin

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

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

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

Choco

Choco Stealing Bamboo

Choco Stealing Bamboo

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

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

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

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

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


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

Doughnut

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

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

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

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

Ryoko

13% WN Ryoku 12th September 2015 189

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

Keiko

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

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

Sumere

30% WN 20% Sumere 20th August 2015 068

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

Aoba

30% WN JPEG Aoba and Masakazu SnapShot(5)

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

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

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

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

Butter

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

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

Cookie

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

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

Toku

40% WN Toku

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

Goemon and Io

Goemon Has a Magnificent Huge, Glossy Morillo

Goemon Has a Magnificent Huge, Glossy Morillo

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

Io

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

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

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

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

Choco, The Adventurous Capybara チョコ、長崎バイオパークでの偏心カピバラ

Choco is a great character. He is highly intelligent and has worked out where and how to steal the extra food he needs. He didn’t like being at the bottom of the hierarchy and often feeling hungry so he has come up with a number of strategies to ensure he gets plenty to eat. He frequently climbs up on his hind legs and nibbles the bamboo on sale to the visitors. On other occasions he sneaks off to the bamboo store, pushes open the cover with his nose and helps himself. Sometimes he even sits on top of the bamboo food store, if it is empty, and waits for it to be refilled! However, despite these antics the keepers adore him. He is such a sweet, gentle and friendly capybara. As a result of his raids Choco is noticeably larger than his brother Doughnut.

Choco, of Monkey House fame, stealing bamboo while the keeper's back is turned. I'm getting very fond of Choco, he is so delightfully naughty

Choco, of Monkey House fame, stealing bamboo while the keeper’s back is turned. I’m getting very fond of Choco, he is so delightfully naughty

Toku, Choco’s father, was highly intelligent and enterprising. He worked out how to open the gate from his enclosure and gain access to the females. Sadly, my husband informed the keeper before Toku had a chance to enjoy himself. Choco seems to have inherited his father’s intelligence.

Choco Loves Being Petted

Choco Loves Being Petted

Here is a video of Choco attempting to steal some bamboo: Clever Capybara Is Almost Successful賢いカピバラ。ほぼ成功した

.
Description of video: He is an exceptionally clever and thoughtful capybara. In this video he is working out how to steal some bamboo. He very frequently steals bamboo. However, because he is so lovable he never gets into trouble. He is a favourite of some of the keepers.

 

Choco, along with Doughnut and Macaroni, are at the bottom of the hierarchy and frequently don’t get enough to eat at breakfast time. On some occasions they get no breakfast at all. Choco has solved this problem by going into the monkey house, on Monkey Island and eating the monkey’s food. Interestingly, the capuchin monkeys tolerate this and seem to like Choco. I was told the monkeys accepted Choco from the very beginning when he started entering the monkey house. Do the monkeys regard Choco as a friend and neighbour? Maybe the Capuchins like him.

Choco Comes Out Of the Monkey House チョコは猿の家から出てくる

Choco Comes Out Of the Monkey House チョコは猿の家から出てくる

 

Doughnut is Choco’s brother and Macaroni is the same age. Macaroni’s mother, Ayu, failed to produce any milk, so Macaroni was put in with Choco and Doughnut and reared by their mother Momiji. In the wild capybaras go in for Alloparenting; i.e. every capybara mother will allow any baby to suckle. So it was quite natural for Momiji to accept Macaroni.

Choco Blissfully Lazing on Top of The Bamboo Store

Choco Blissfully Lazing on Top of The Bamboo Store

Occasionally the monkeys watch Choco as he grazes on their island but they never attack him, whereas they frequently harass some of the other capybaras. They seem particularly to enjoy harassing the capybaras who get most upset by their harassment. It seems as if the more upset the capybara becomes the greater the enjoyment for the Capuchins. If the capybara doesn’t react to their harassment it is as if the Capuchins feel it is not worth their effort to harass.

Choco's Nose Poking Out Of the Monkey House

Choco’s Nose Poking Out Of the Monkey House

Very occasionally Choco makes a hasty exit from the monkey house presumably pushed out by the monkeys.

.
Capuchin monkeys are the New World equivalent of chimpanzees, i.e. they are highly intelligent.

Choco

Choco, resting on Monkey Island

On several occasions baby Aoba and Ryoku, one of Hinase’s four babies, sit on the steps leading up to the monkey house, poking their noses through the small entrance door, looking longingly at the monkey’s food. They sit for a very long time before plucking up the courage to go in. They are immediately chased away by the monkeys, which never happens to Choco.

.
Choco and Doughnut both spend most of the day on Monkey Island and don’t bother to come over for watermelon as they know they will just be chased away by the other capybaras and attacked.

Goro, The Largest of the Capuchin Monkeys, Checks up on Choco in the Monkey House

Goro, The Largest of the Capuchin Monkeys, Checks up on Choco in the Monkey House

Choco often shelters from the rain in the monkey house, staying there for more than an hour. Sometimes he takes a nap in the cool of the monkey house during the heat of the day in August. On one occasion when he came out after his nap, several of the monkeys went inside as if they had been waiting for him to come out, or perhaps they were looking to see how much of their food he had eaten. The largest male, Goro, looked in several times while Choco was inside, and he was the first to go in when Choco came out. You could see Choco sleeping inside the monkey house with his cute little pink nose and paws poking towards the exit.

Choco Gazing Soulfully from the Monkey House

Choco Gazing Soulfully from the Monkey House

Choco often sits on one of the benches by the visitor entrance in the main enclosure. This attracts the attention of visitors when they enter the petting enclosure and ensures he gets petted and fed. On one occasion Choco, while being petted and in a state of absolute bliss, rolled over and fell off the bench!

Choco Sitting on Top of the Bamboo Store, Waiting Patiently For It To Be Refilled

Choco Sitting on Top of the Bamboo Store, Waiting Patiently For It To Be Refilled

Choco loves rolling in the mud when it rains. As he rolls in the mud he sometimes accidentally rolls right over. Most capybaras panic if they do a 360° roll; they lose their bearings and feel vulnerable. Fearless Choco does not seem bothered. His movements as he rolls in the mud are quite unlike any other capybara, he is so graceful and balletic. As though he was a trained dancer. He stretches, and curls, and points his toes, and holds his poses and uses his paws like a Kathakali dancer (a dance form from Kerala , in India). Capybaras love rolling in the mud and it is very good for their skin.

Choco Loves Rolling in the Mud

Choco Loves Rolling in the Mud

One September morning Ayu gives Choco a nasty bite on his cheek. The wound takes some time to heal as every time Choco squeezes into the monkey house he scrapes the scab off.

Choco You Should Have Been a Ballet Dancer

Choco You Should Have Been a Ballet Dancer

Here is another video of Choco: Capybara In the Monkey House Stealing the Monkey’s Food 猿の食べ物を盗むモンキーハウスにはカピバラ

Description of video: Choco is at the bottom of the hierarchy which means he often doesn’t get enough to eat and gets attacked and chased away by most of the other capybaras at feeding times. However Choco is very intelligent. He now spends most of the day on Monkey Island grazing and eating the monkey’s food. He goes into the monkey house several times every day to steal the monkey’s food or shelter from the rain and have a nap. Interestingly the capuchin monkeys never harass him even though he is stealing their food and they sometimes harass some of the other capybaras especially Momiji and the young ones. They seem to have completely accepted him, perhaps they like him. Choco is now noticeably larger than his twin brother Doughnut who has not taken up residence on Monkey Island and remains at the bottom of the hierarchy at feeding time. The cut on Choco’s cheek was caused by another capybara, Ayu, not by the monkeys. Once or twice Choco comes out of the monkey house in a hurry as if one of the monkeys had encouraged his exit.


One morning the steps into the monkey house are taken away. Choco has been growing chunkier and chunkier but despite this he persists in squeezing through the small entrance into the monkey house. It is becoming obvious that one day he will get stuck.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erQ2wFPZDyU&list=UU6vvD9LkAvhQzItm1kCtCfg

Choco chewing on a stone. Most if not all the capybaras at the Bio Park chew on stones to keep their teeth healthy.

Choco chewing on a stone. Most if not all the capybaras at the Bio Park chew on stones to keep their teeth healthy.

Choco sits in front of the monkey house thinking “Where are my steps?”
After the monkey house steps are taken away Choco frequently goes and sits in front of the opening looking slightly lost and thoughtful. Wondering what has happened to his steps. He gets up on his hind legs and pushes his head inside the monkey house to find something to eat. On one occasion Goro, the largest of the capuchin monkeys, comes along and swipes his bottom.

Here is another video of Choco: Cutest Capybara You Should Have Been A Ballet Dancerかわいいカピバラあなたはバレエダンサーれている必要があります http://youtu.be/iGzeNaPN2oE

Description of video:  Choco moves so gracefully. I’ve never seen a capybara with such graceful paw movements, or the way he moves his body. He reminds me of a Kathakali dancer (a dance form from Kerala , in India). Choco is so patient trying to get a few bamboo leaves to eat. You can see how frustrated he is getting.

 

Choco Napping on the Food Trough

Choco Napping on a Food Trough

Choco used to chase the female capybaras before he was neutered, Doughnut much less so and Macaroni not at all. After the three of them were neutered they were kept in a separate enclosure until the stitches were removed, after about one week. This was to ensure they didn’t go into the water.

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

Choco’s father is Toku, his mother is Momiji. Donguri is his grandmother. He was born in July 2014.

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

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

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

“Danger! Humans!” The Elephants Cried. Elephant Communication Is Highly Sophisticated.

Elephants.  Photograph by Peter Knights For  wildaid.org

Elephants. Photograph by Peter Knights For wildaid.org

 

“Danger! Humans!” The Elephants Cried.

Elephants Have a Very Sophisticated Vocabulary.

Elephant alarm calls are so sophisticated that they can communicate who or what the threat is. In this study the researchers analysed the acoustic properties of each type of alarm call and discovered that the elephants were able to tell their herd whether the threat was from humans or bees. A human would not be able to detect this difference because the calls include distinctive features at a low frequency inaudible to the human ear.

An earlier study had shown that when elephants hear the sound of disturbed bees they make a distinct alarm call to warn other elephants of this threat.

The research was conducted on wild elephants in Kenya by Oxford University, Save the Elephants and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The elephant species was Loxodonta africana.

The purpose of this research was to discover whether elephant alarm calls:

• identify the specific type of threat, in this case humans or bees;

• indicate the level of urgency the threat poses;

• result in behaviour based on the type of threat and the level of urgency.

A recording of the voices of male Samburu tribesmen was played to resting elephants and their behaviour and vocal responses were recorded. The vocalisations were played to another group of resting elephants to see if their reaction would be the same. It was. Both groups became vigilant and ran away making a low rumbling call.

.
Humans pose the greatest threat to elephants. This threat includes poaching for ivory, destruction of their habitat and conflict over water and other resources. In the wild elephants have few predators, although lions will attack elephant calves.

Amazingly elephants have learnt which tribes of humans in Kenya pose the greatest threat. They can distinguish between Samburu herdsmen, Masaai herdsmen and Kamba farmers, as earlier studies have shown. The Masaai will kill elephants. The elephants know this and their alarm calls warn of greater danger when they smell or see Masaai, than when they smell or see the Kamba, who pose less of a threat. They recognise the voices of Samburu herdsmen and, impressively, were also able to decide how great the threat was from the Samburu tribesman in different situations. Their alarm calls reflected this: mostly they would just rumble, but when they perceived a greater threat from the Samburu they would roar and trumpet as well.

The Samburu are pastoralists in northern Kenya. Their cultural beliefs mean that traditionally they have not hunted elephants for ivory or meat. However, as human populations grow the Samburu come into conflict with elephants over resources such as the watering hole. Chance encounters in the bush can also be deadly for elephants. So these days the Samburu do pose a threat to the elephants.

Elephants produce a number of alarm calls in response to threats from predators, including rumbles, roars and trumpets. The most frequent type of call is the rumble. At the highest level of perceived threat the rumble includes roars and trumpets.

The response of the elephants to the bees was compared with their response to the Samburu male voices. In both cases the elephants showed heightened vigilance, made warning calls and ran from the threat.

One behaviour that was specific to the alarm call signifying bees, and which did not take place when the elephants heard the alarm call for humans, was an increase in headshaking. The elephants shook their heads to ward off the bees, dislodge any that were already on their heads and prevent bee stings.

To find out if the level of threat was communicated by the alarm calls the rumbles, roars and trumpets were acoustically modified to reflect three levels of threat:

• Low rumble with roars and trumpets reflecting the highest level of alarm. This resulted in the most extreme reaction from the elephants.

• The same low rumble but with the roars and trumpets removed. This was the most typical response to the sound of Samburu voices, and elicited a similar response to that of the threat of bees.

• Rumble which sounded like the non-alarm rumbles elephants make. The elephants’ response was to move half the distance compared with the level 2 alarm. As a control, the recordings included a section of “white noise” which elicited the lowest level of response from the elephants.

On hearing the calls the elephants became vigilant. They did this by: “smelling” , when an elephant raises his trunk into the air or stretches it out in front of his face, horizontally; “scanning” for danger, with their ears held out; “head-up” when the elephant lifts its head with its ears held out and holds this position for more than 2 seconds. When these are all displayed at the same time they are known as “vigilance” behaviours.

Elephants have remarkable vocal abilities. They can manipulate their mouth, tongue and trunk to shape and alter the sounds of their rumbles and thus make different alarm calls which identify the type of threat and also the level of threat. The difference between the alarm rumble warning of humans and alarm rumble warning of bees can be compared to the effect of a person changing a vowel in a word, for example “poo” and “pee”. This is similar to the way humans vocalise. Elephants can produce rumbles through both their mouth and their trunk. The alarm rumbles are produced through their trunk.

Impressively, elephants can learn to imitate the sounds of the environment and the calls of other species, including humans and other elephant species. They have also worked out in which places they are most at danger, and they avoid these.

Elephant communication is complex and sophisticated; further research is being done in this exciting field.

The ultimate purpose of this study is to safeguard the elephant population by learning how to avoid conflict between humans and elephants, while at the same time protecting the livelihoods of the local population.

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//

//