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

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

Just like humans they all have different personalities and characters.

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

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

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

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

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

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Choco helping himself to pellets.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Doughnut by the capystove in winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Aoba relaxing

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

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

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

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Aoba looking seductive

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

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

The physical enrichment of the enclosure should include:

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

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

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

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

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

Juanita eating grass

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

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

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

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

Romeo swimming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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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.

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

 

Macaroni

Macaroni

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

Capybaras are very gregarious and often vocalize.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This is a summary of the research on capybara vocalisations:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Syu makes Alarm Call 当確 アラームコールを行います

Syu makes Alarm Call 当確 アラームコールを行います

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donguri was also very tolerant of badly behaved humans.

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

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

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

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

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

Aoba on the left in a very serious fight with Cookie

Aoba on the left in a very serious fight with Cookie

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

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

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

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

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

Here is my description posted with the video:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20 Sep 2014 JPEG 178 crop nasty Swan attacks Ricki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Baby Capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park. 赤ちゃんカピバラ、 地球上で最も愛らしい生き物。長崎バイオパークで。

Doughnut looks so blissful as he is being nibbled by Macaroni and Choco. Macaroni is Chief nibbler.  ドーナツとても幸せ。マカロニは彼をニブル。幸せな

Doughnut looks so blissful as he is being nibbled by Macaroni and Choco. Macaroni is Chief nibbler. ドーナツとても幸せ。マカロニは彼をニブル。幸せな

A surprise was waiting for me when I arrived at the Biopark at the beginning of August, or rather three of the most adorable little surprises: two week old baby capybaras.   I believe baby capybaras are the most adorable living creatures on earth

Momiji had given birth on July 12th to two baby boys, Choco and Doughnut. Three days later when the keepers arrived at the capybara enclosure early on the morning of July 15th they found a tiny little baby capybara wandering around. After inspecting all the adult capybaras they decided Ayu must be the mother as there was a tell-tale drop of blood on her bottom. She had not produced any milk so there had been no visual indication (swollen mammary glands) to give them a clue that she was pregnant.

Doughnut, sleeping, resting his head on Choco's neck. Macaroni in the background

Doughnut, sleeping, resting his head on Choco’s neck. Macaroni in the background

Toku, the new boss capybara at Nagasaki Bio Park, is the father.  Donguri, the great matriarch of the Bio Park herd and the most important capybara in Japan (in my opinion!), is their grandmother (Or in Macaroni’s case great grandmother).

Since Ayu wasn’t producing any milk little Macaroni, as he was called, moved in with Choco and Doughnut. In the wild mother capybaras communal nurse, called alloparenting (wherein any of the mother capybaras that have given birth will let any of the baby capybaras, not just their own babies, suckle), so it was quite natural for Momiji to take over the role of little Macaroni’s mother and let him suckle.

Ayu was a regular visitor at Momiji’s enclosure sniffing her little baby, Macaroni, through the fence. I felt sorry for her and wondered what was going through her mind. She is one of the sweetest, most gentle capybaras at the Biopark. Like Donguri she is disinclined to fight. She never attacked Momiji when Momiji rejoined the herd in the main enclosure, and it would be interesting to know if this was because of her pacifist nature or because Momiji was looking after her baby.

This is a very interesting photo: Ayu and Macaroni. Macaroni is Ayu's son. But Ayu did not produce any milk so Macaroni moved in to Momiji's enclosure with her sons Choco and Doughnut. Sometimes Ayu used to come and visit Macaroni and they would sniff each other through the fence. However you can see how strong the bond between natural mother and baby Macaroni is in this photo. The photo was taken about 11 days after Macaroni, and Momiji and the other babies rejoined the herd in the main petting enclosure. あゆとマカロニ:これは非常に興味深い写真です。マカロニはあゆの息子である。マカロニは彼女の息子チョコとドーナツともみじのエンクロージャに引っ越しせますが、あゆはどんな牛乳を生産しなかった。時々、アユはマカロニを来て、訪問するために使用。彼らはフェンスを介して互いににおいを嗅ぐことになる。しかしあなたが自然な母親と赤ちゃんマカロニの間の結合が、この写真ではどのように強力見ることができます。写真はマカロニ後の11日採取し、もみじや他の赤ちゃんは、メインふれあいエンクロージャに群れに復帰しました

This is a very interesting photo: Ayu and Macaroni. Macaroni is Ayu’s son. But Ayu did not produce any milk so Macaroni moved in to Momiji’s enclosure with her sons Choco and Doughnut. Sometimes Ayu used to come and visit Macaroni and they would sniff each other through the fence. However you can see how strong the bond between natural mother and baby Macaroni is in this photo. The photo was taken about 11 days after Macaroni, and Momiji and the other babies rejoined the herd in the main petting enclosure. あゆとマカロニ:これは非常に興味深い写真です。マカロニはあゆの息子である。マカロニは彼女の息子チョコとドーナツともみじのエンクロージャに引っ越しせますが、あゆはどんな牛乳を生産しなかった。時々、アユはマカロニを来て、訪問するために使用。彼らはフェンスを介して互いににおいを嗅ぐことになる。しかしあなたが自然な母親と赤ちゃんマカロニの間の結合が、この写真ではどのように強力見ることができます。写真はマカロニ後の11日採取し、もみじや他の赤ちゃんは、メインふれあいエンクロージャに群れに復帰しました

At the Biopark the female capybaras are removed from the main enclosure up to six weeks before they give birth (it is difficult to estimate with any accuracy the date on which a mother capybara will give birth, hence the long period of sequestration). Mother and babies then remain in a separate enclosure for about six weeks. The reason for this separation is so that no harm will come to the babies. However, there is then the problem of reintroducing the mother back into the herd. Momiji was attacked many times by Maple and Yasuha who wanted her place in the hierarchy. Momiji had been joint number two in the hierarchy with Hinase and Yasuha. Ayu was next in the hierarchy followed by Maple.

Capybara Sumo Wrestlers.  相撲 レスリングカピバラ

Capybara Sumo Wrestlers. 相撲 レスリングカピバラ

In South America, following extensive research, female capybaras are no longer separated prior to giving birth as the problems associated with reintroducing them into the herd are greater than any danger of infanticide.

I spent many very enjoyable days watching Choco, Doughnut and Macaroni play together and clamber all over long suffering Momiji.   This is one of my favorite baby capybara videos:  Doughnut being nibbled by Macaroni and Choco.   Macaroni is the most enthusiastic nibbler.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVeUwa1pnoI

Macaroni, Ayu's son.  マカロニ。アユの息子。

Macaroni, Ayu’s son. マカロニ。アユの息子。

In this video Momiji’s two sons Choco and Doughnut play together and scramble all over each other. Macaroni, appears right at the end.  もみじの2人の息子とチョコドーナツは、一緒に遊ぶ。とすべてお互いかけスクランブル。彼らは2013712日に生まれました。父はとくです。長崎バイオパークで新しい上司カピバラ。どんぐり、偉大な女家長。彼らの祖母です。アユの赤ちゃんの息子、マカロニは、右端に表示されます。

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QF4VXOKASI8

Choco, the baby capybara with the black scars, seems most like his mother Momiji. He has a more anxious personality and is not quite as physically strong as his brother Doughnut. He often calls plaintively for Momiji; he likes to be near her. Choco seems to have inherited Momiji’s intense and emotional personality. He was often the most responsive to petting. He also called the most and was very fretful when Momiji was in Toku’s enclosure mating with him. Choco couldn’t understand what was going on; “Why is Toku jumping on mummy and why has she been separated from us”. Later on I saw Choco practising Toku’s moves on his little brother Doughnut; clambering on top of him from the rear. All the babies are male.

Choco

Choco

Choco often called Momiji when he was separated from her and couldn’t find her. At breakfast time he was the baby capybara who seemed to elicit the most aggression from the older capybaras when the babies tried to feed at the same food trough.

On the day a film crew entered Momiji’s enclosure and frightened her, Choco was the baby who was most upset by their intrusion and suffered a large cut and several abrasions, just like Momiji herself. Momiji had obviously been frightened by the presence of strangers in her small enclosure and had tried to escape from the film crew.

One time when I was petting Choco, he asked me if his name was “Kowai”.  (“Kowai” means “cute” in Japanese).

Momiji rests her head on Choco

Momiji rests her head on Choco

Momiji is a very restless capybara, wiry, fit and athletic. She seems to give herself one hundred percent to any activity, whether it is looking after her babies, suckling or making love to Toku.

Momiji is an incredibly patient mother, standing quietly until all the babies have finished suckling. If she is sitting down and one of the babies wants some milk, he will burrow his nose into her tummy looking for a nipple. If he can’t find a nipple, he will bite her a couple of times to get her to stand up , which she always does immediately. もみじは信じられないほどの患者の母親です。  すべての赤ちゃんまで、静かに立って授乳を終えた。彼女が座っていると赤ちゃんの1は、いくつかの牛乳を望んでいる場合。 彼は乳首を探して、彼女のおなかに彼の鼻を穴を掘るします。は乳首を見つけることができない場合、彼は彼女をかむ。彼女が立って取得するには、彼女はいつもすぐに立ち上がる。

When Momiji suckles her three babies she goes into a very contented, almost trancelike state. Her eyes glaze over and she starts making this “happy” vocalisation and her nose vibrates. Here is a video of Momiji suckling her babies making this very cute, contented sound:     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgquAQFJXyQ

Momiji and Doughnut

Momiji and Doughnut

Doughnut is strong and calm by nature. He was able, on two occasions, to jump the two feet out of the empty pond, on the day the pond was emptied and cleaned, but little Choco and Macaroni, try as they might just could not manage it. It was heartbreaking to watch. Their little legs pounded and flailed as they tried to grip the top of the stone wall, but time and again they fell back, often landing awkwardly. I was so afraid one of them might break its little leg. Fortunately this drama occurred just before lunchtime, so while all the keepers and management who had been cleaning the pond were away, I was able to buy some bamboo and lure Momiji and her babies out of the empty pond on the opposite side where there were some stepping stones which allowed the baby capybaras to easily jump up.

Little Doughnut

Little Doughnut

Macaroni, Ayu’s son, was a little smaller than Choco and Doughnut. He was fully accepted by Momiji and her babies but often chose not to play with them, probably because they were a little bigger than him. They almost always snuggled up to nap together. Macaroni also seemed to be living to a slightly different schedule with regard to eating and sleeping, so quite often while they were eating he would be sleeping. After Momiji and the babies joined the rest of the herd Macaroni seemed the most independent and brave, often going off completely on his own in the early days rather than staying near Momiji. Surprisingly he was the baby capybara who was most upset when Momiji went into Toku’s enclosure and the two of them were mating. Macaroni didn’t know what was going on and hated being separated. Between the ages of two weeks and five weeks, while still in the separate enclosure, Macaroni frequently had hiccups.

Little Macaroni being petted by me. Baby capybaras are incredibly cute when they first discover that humans can make them happy by rubbing them in the right places, and not just by feeding them. The look of concentration on their little faces... As they try to get the most out of the pleasurable experience.  私は少しマカロニペット。赤ちゃんカピバラは非常にかわいいです。彼らは人間が適切な場所でそれらをこすって「それらを幸せにすることができることを発見する。 だけではなく、それらを供給することによって。彼らの小さい顔に集中の外観...彼らは楽しい経験を最大限に活用しようとする。

Little Macaroni being petted by me. Baby capybaras are incredibly cute when they first discover that humans can make them happy by rubbing them in the right places, and not just by feeding them. The look of concentration on their little faces… As they try to get the most out of the pleasurable experience. 私は少しマカロニペット。赤ちゃんカピバラは非常にかわいいです。彼らは人間が適切な場所でそれらをこすって「それらを幸せにすることができることを発見する。
だけではなく、それらを供給することによって。彼らの小さい顔に集中の外観…彼らは楽しい経験を最大限に活用しようとする。

When Choco, Doughnut and Macaroni rest together one of them often faces in the opposite direction to keep a lookout for predators.

On August 24th, when the babies were about six weeks old, they were all released into the main enclosure. Momiji took them on a grand tour of the enclosure, which is large with a huge pond. They swam all the way round the pond and then Momiji tried to find them a quiet, resting spot away from the noisy people. First she tried Capuchin Island, but the monkeys came over to harass her. They then settled just outside their old, separate enclosure.

Doughnut and Macaroni Play Fighting.  ドーナツとマカロニ。戦いを演じる

Doughnut and Macaroni Play Fighting. ドーナツとマカロニ。戦いを演じる

During the day Momiji and the babies were in the main enclosure so another female capybara was put in their little enclosure as the Biopark thought it was necessary to have that enclosure occupied. On the first day poor Ayu was trapped here, as she had been the first capybara to enter the enclosure when it was opened in the morning. No doubt she wanted to see little baby Macaroni, from whom she had been separated for six weeks. After a few days Maple and Yasuha were sequestered in this separate enclosure each day to prevent them from attacking Momiji. Yasuha soon learned that if she didn’t want to be separated from the herd she better stop fighting Momiji, but Maple never learned that. All the capybaras hate being separated from the main herd and find it very stressful.

Choco is about to be kissed. I was trying to decipher the look on his face. I think he looks a little sultry.   チョコはキスをする! 幸せそうに見える?わからない。

Choco is about to be kissed. I was trying to decipher the look on his face. I think he looks a little sultry. チョコはキスをする!
幸せそうに見える?わからない。

On that first day in the main enclosure Choco, Doughnut and Macaroni were very wary of the humans, but they wanted the food which the humans were offering. If anyone tried to pet them they quickly darted away. By the second day, those of us who know which areas of the capybaras’ body respond best to petting, were able from time to time to show them just how blissful being petted by a human could be. Within a few days the babies were completely relaxed in the company of even the most noisy and inexperienced capybara visitors.

Interestingly, for the first 10 days or so the babies would not roll over on their backs when they were being petted, no matter how blissful they felt. Presumably they sensed the need to be able to run away quickly should danger present itself. However, once the babies decided they were completely safe in the large enclosure amongst the humans they rolled over whenever they went into that blissful state of ecstasy.

Choco, Doughnut and Macaroni napping with the herd

Choco, Doughnut and Macaroni napping with the herd

Little Macaroni capybara said to his mother Momiji “Why do all the humans want to rub my bottom? It feels very nice and is very enjoyable, but isn’t it rather strange?”

From my diary, August 25th (this was only their second day in the large enclosure amongst the humans) : “I spent about 10 minutes with Little Macaroni today, petting him. He was so sweet and tiny, and so gentle. Marc commented on how fluffy he looked. The babies are still quite nervous of people, but they have quickly learned that humans are a source of food.”

Baby capybaras are born ‘precocial’ which means they are developed when born, covered in hair with their eyes open and able to move normally. Although they suckle for 16 weeks they are able to eat grass etc. almost immediately. Baby capybaras weigh about 2 pounds, roughly 1 kg, at birth.

Capybara Mating Rituals at Nagasaki Bio Park長崎バイオパークのカピバラ交尾  Part One

Momiji has had a very stressful time after giving birth to Choco and Doughnut, and looking after Ayu’s baby Macaroni. Yasuha and Maple have been attacking her, and she is always hungry. Nursing 3 babies is taking a lot out of her and she is a phenomenal mother. If one of the babies wants some milk he just bites her and she immediately stands up so he can suckle. メイトを20回とメープルを得た。1時間で。赤ちゃんの泣き声

On this wet, rainy Sunday she calls repeatedly to Toku. (Toku is the father of her babies). He immediately comes over to the fence separating them. At about 3 PM the keeper decides to let Momiji enter Toku’s enclosure, and Hinase is taken out. Hinase is not very happy about this, being supplanted by Momiji for a romantic engagement. Momiji was very willing and kept adopting the Lordosis position waiting for Toku to mount her. This went on for over an hour and Toku mounted her more than 15 times.

You can hear her babies calling plaintively in the background. They were wondering why they couldn’t get to mummy, and what on earth was Toku doing to her. Choco and Doughnut even tried copying Toku, by mounting each other! At about 2 minutes 30 seconds you can see Momiji’s sister Kaede in the enclosure at the top of the hill, watching.

In a later video you can see that after a while her babies plaintive cries, and the way they are gnawing on the fence begin to upset Momiji. Toku seemed to sense a change in her demeanour and looked concerned, hanging back with a puzzled expression on his face, wondering if he could mount her again. Is there an element of frustration in Toku’s barks?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUDXrnv9B-w

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