The Capybara Scandal

I am trying to stop capybaras becoming the next “must have” exotic pet craze, and suffering the same fate as potbellied pigs, when they become large and difficult to handle.

I was talking to a lady who runs an Animal Refuge in Indiana who already has 2 capybaras who she rescued. She said there was a growing number of people buying female capybaras in order to mate them, and make money out of selling their babies. She expects to have many more capybaras who need to be rescued, because there are now so many breeders, and so many people who want a cute pet capybara.

When capybaras are portrayed as “cute” (dressed in clothes, hats and sunglasses) you create a market for pet capybaras among people who are not really interested in capybaras, but just love their cuteness. These people have no understanding of a capybara’s needs, and no desire to spend time doing the necessary research.

Capybaras are happiest as part of a herd in their natural habitat. These capybaras are in the Llanos of Colombia

People need to know that pet capybaras are sometimes aggressive. As they grow older and bigger, capybaras become very powerful. They have very sharp teeth (the Amerindians, in South America, use capybara teeth as weapons, attached to poles). Not many people want a pet who can cause painful, even serious, injuries.

Please see my blog: A Pet Capybara: Should I Have One?    https://capybaraworld.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/a-pet-capybara-should-i-have-one/

The leading breeder of capybaras stopped selling capybaras to the public as pets, about 8 years ago, because so many pet capybaras suffered, often dying prematurely or ending up in animal refuges.

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

Many pet capybaras die prematurely due to tooth problems, inappropriate diet and stress.

A friend, who runs an animal refuge, reminded me of the craze for potbellied pigs, not so long ago. When these potbellied pigs grew larger, many were abandoned and ended up in refuges. The same is beginning to happen with capybaras.

Capybaras are very sensitive emotionally; they are intelligent, sentient beings who can think and feel.

If you look in Ran’s eyes you can see how frightened he is

I was heartbroken to learn that during the extreme cold spell in February 2021, many pet capybaras suffered frostbite. This indicates that most people who get pet capybaras should not. This has happened before. Over the years I have been horrified to hear of capybaras suffering frostbite in North America. If I had capybaras living outside in extreme weather conditions, I would usher them into my house, and if necessary cover them with blankets. No capybara should suffer frostbite.

I find it very depressing that people who say they care about capybaras like to see capybaras dressed in clothes. No one who dresses a capybara in clothes should have one of these remarkable animals.

It seems that most people cannot see life from an animal’s perspective. Like everyone who understands animals, I don’t understand why people like seeing capybaras in dresses. One of the reasons people love capybaras is they are so cute – naked!

People should know that capybaras don’t like wearing clothes. This should not come as a surprise to anyone who understands animals. I have witnessed first-hand how uncomfortable and unhappy capybaras are in clothes. Being made to wear clothes also interferes with the relationship between a pet capybara and their owner. The capybara is confused why someone they love is doing this to them.

I came across a website, by accident, which advertised capybaras for sale. These were capybaras who had outgrown their “baby” cuteness. They varied in age from about nine months to 3 years. The way in which they were described by the people selling them was heartbreaking. One seller described his capybara as “Sold as is, with defects”, as if he was selling a used car. Another advertised his capybara as: “Cannot be handled”; I wondered what had caused this capybara to become so unhappy and aggressive. Another seller described the capybara he was selling as “Suitable for display” as though this sensitive, living being was an inanimate object with no feelings or needs. I was in tears thinking about the unhappy lives humans had created for these loving animals. And I was appalled at the lack of compassion, concern or morality of the people selling these unwanted capybaras.

I was in conversation recently with a man who wanted to keep a capybara as a pet. He was convinced he could give the capybara a better life than the capybara would experience in the wild! Research has shown that wild animals kept as pets suffer much more stress than if they were living in the wild, in their natural habitat.  I was horrified at this man’s lack of understanding and arrogance. He obviously had no understanding whatsoever of animals, and unfortunately was not interested in learning.

Capybaras do not like to wear clothes. Dressing a pet capybara causes stress and interferes with the bond between the capybara and the human, as the capybara cannot understand why the human is doing this to him
Capybaras do not like to wear clothes. Dressing a pet capybara causes stress and interferes with the bond between the capybara and the human, as the capybara cannot understand why the human is doing this to him

It is well known that the market for “cute” animal photos and videos is detrimental to Animal Welfare. In some countries it encourages people to buy wild animals as pets when in fact these wild animals are totally unsuited to becoming pets and usually suffer. It also results in an increasing number of zoos, often very small and cramped, which house cute animals in prisonlike conditions. These animals suffer immense stress in small, unsuitable enclosures, often with concrete floors. In the case of capybaras, who are semi aquatic, their water source is a small plastic tub often barely larger than the capybara himself, when they need a body of water large enough for them to swim and play.

Capybara cafes should be banned. A cafe is a very stressful and unsuitable habitat for a wild animal. Animals in captivity should always be able to express their natural behaviours and have some control over their lives. Capybaras need to have access to grazing and a pond 24/7. Nobody who understands animals would want to see a capybara, or any other wild animal, in a cafe.

We humans cause so much suffering to the animals we call “cute”. Capybaras, and all other species, are so VERY MUCH MORE than cute.

For more on this topic see my blog: “Animal Manifesto, Animals Are Real Not Cute”

https://capybaraworld.wordpress.com/2018/01/01/animal-manifesto-animals-are-real-not-cute/

Anyone who understands animals and cares about capybaras will be very concerned about the welfare of the growing number of capybaras being bought as pets.

There is an increasing number of people breeding capybaras for sale as pets to meet this demand. The result is capybaras suffer, and end up in refuges.

Some of the people who say they love capybaras, understand animals and care about the welfare of capybaras. Other people who say they like capybaras, just like their cuteness and want them as entertainment, but have no understanding of, or interest in, their welfare. Unfortunately, I believe the majority of people who say they like capybaras, are in the latter category. I believe this is partly because most people cannot see life from an animal’s perspective. My mission is to prevent capybaras from suffering by helping people to understand the needs of these remarkable, sentient beings.

An Amusing Account: When Donguri Gave Birth in 2008, at Nagasaki Bio Park. 日本語。どんぐりはもみじや楓を出産したときは

English translation of blog written by Nagasaki Bio Park staff in Japanese. All photographs by Nagasaki Bio Park.                               

When Donguri gave birth to her 3 pups, Momiji, Kaede and Akkun, on 10 September, 2008, she chose to have her babies on Capuchin Island, away from human intervention. She does not have a very high opinion of humans, and wanted to protect them and keep them away from the visitors, which is why she chose to have them on the island. She was most perturbed when the babies were removed from the island by the keepers, and taken to a special enclosure. She quickly followed them there.

This is a link to the original Japanese version written by Nagasaki Bio Park:

http://www.biopark.co.jp/staff/2008/09/post_245.html

(I have kept some of the “Google translate” translations, as they give the flavour of the Japanese humour, and are easy to understand)

September 10, 2008, three capybara pups are born! “Donguri (Acorn)”is the mother, “Takeshi” is the father. (Donguri means Acorn in English.)

These days (at least since 2012) the female capybaras who are about to give birth are put in a separate enclosure, with strings across the top, to protect the newborn pups from crows. Perhaps in 2008 the pregnant capybaras were allowed to give birth in the main enclosure with the rest of the herd. Or perhaps the keepers didn’t realise that Donguri was about to give birth. Donguri is a very large capybara.

Donguri gave birth during the night, and chose to have her pups on the largest of the three islands in the pond, known as “Capuchin Island”. In the wild, capybara mothers go somewhere quiet to give birth, slightly apart from the main herd, in an area with vegetation which will offer some protection from predators. In captive situations, some people separate pregnant capybaras shortly before they give birth, for fear that the male capybaras will attack the pups. However, in reality there is little evidence of infanticide in capybara herds, and it is very stressful for a mother capybara to be separated from her herd. All the capybara fathers I know, have been excellent fathers, very involved, and helping to look after their pups.

When the keepers arrived on the morning of 10 September, and discovered that Donguri had given birth, they set about moving the pups to a separate enclosure for their safety. Donguri was not happy about this!

Donguri: “I hear a noise! What is happening by the pond?”

“Oh no, the keepers have arrived, and are watching me. I wonder what they want?”

Keeper: “First, in order to capture the babies, you must separate the mother and babies, for the time being.”
Keepers: “. ーDonguri, Horahora To~tsu I have gone a little beyond”
Donguri: “I am not happy with what you are doing. I cannot forgive you Fuga~tsu (angry)”
“I am usually a very calm, laid-back capybara. However, this time I will intimidate the keepers with a fierce bark. “
Splash!  Reluctantly I have been forced into the pond!”

Donguri stays in the pond. She watches intently to see what the keepers are doing to her pups, on Capuchin Island. She doesn’t want to go to an isolated enclosure, separated from the herd.

Donguri: “My babies, are they all right I wonder …”

Keeper: “Finally, we begin to capture the baby capybaras. We must not injure the babies.”

The rest of the herd vocalises loudly: “We must intimidate the keepers to protect Donguri and her babies”

Keeper: “Right! I have managed to catch one baby. This is very difficult, the pups move very quickly”.

“Finally, I have managed to catch the other two babies. If I don’t give them back to Donguri soon……”

Keepers: “Donguri, wait! Hurry hurry!

Keeper: “The 3 babies are captured. Everyone is safe. The crows did not cause any injuries, fortunately. The babies are very energetic, so I think they were born some time ago, perhaps just after the Biopark closed yesterday.”

Babies: “Where are we? Where is our mother?”

Donguri goes into this separate enclosure first, isolated from the herd. “Such excitement! This reunion.”
Donguri:. “Well I’m glad everyone is safe and sound. We are lucky! Now I will climb the rocky hill to get away from the humans. Let’s go!”

With that, the babies follow their mother, Donguri, up the mossy, rocky slope. “We are all very healthy!”

“Hey, wait Yo!”

たかさん– Taka san

The Lesser Capybara, Hydrochoerus isthmius. This species of capybara is less well-known then the larger, and much more numerous, Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris. 您知道水豚有2種嗎?這是較小的,數量少得多. カピバラには2種類あることをご存知ですか?この種は小さく、はるかに少ないです

There are 2 species of capybara, the larger Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris, which is the species we all know well, and Hydrochoerus isthmius also called the The Lesser Capybara. The 2 species look very similar. However, the Lesser capybara is smaller, with thicker and wider frontal bones. They have a slightly more angular head and a somewhat darker, brown coloured coat. The Lesser capybara weighs about 28 kg as against 40 – 60 kg for Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris. The 2 species of the genus Hydrochoerus live in habitats which rarely overlap.

Stanford 3

For an interval in the 20th century, the Lesser capybara, Hydrochoerus isthmius , was thought to be a subspecies of the larger Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris. However, genetic studies and studies of their anatomy in the mid-1980s, showed that the Lesser capybara was indeed a separate species. It’s karyotype (genetic sequence) has 2N equals 64 and FN equals 104. The karyotype of the larger Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris is: 2N equals 66 and FN equals 102.

The Lesser capybara breeds throughout the year and gives birth to 3 – 4 pups on average, as against up to 8 pups for Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris. The gestation period is 108 days for the Lesser capybara as against 150.6 days for Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris. The Lesser capybara pups at birth weigh about 1.1 kg (as against 1.5 kg for the larger capybara, Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris). As with Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris, the Lesser capybara can be diurnal or nocturnal, and social or solitary, depending on the season, the habitat and the pressure imposed by hunting.

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There is not a great deal of information about the Lesser capybara, Hydrochoerus isthmius, as relatively few studies of this species have been done. Their conservation status is not known but they may be under threat in some of their traditional habitats. Their numbers are far smaller than Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris, the larger, well-known capybara. Their population status and current distribution in Colombia is unknown.

The Lesser capybara is under threat due to subsistence hunting and the destruction of its habitat. The gallery forests where they live are being cleared and the swamp lands, vital for this semiaquatic species, are being drained. The drainage of the swamp areas bordering the Magdalena River are having a particularly detrimental effect on their numbers.

Predators include jaguars and pumas on land and Cayman in water. Additionally, young capybaras are often attacked by snakes (boa constrictors), crab eating foxes, some birds like the caracara and black vultures.

The Lesser capybara is found in the Caribbean region, the northern end of the Pacific region and the inter-Andean valleys of the Cauca and Magdalena rivers.

Stanford

If you want to meet a member of this species, this is where you might be able to find them: The Lesser capybara, Hydrochoerus isthmius, is found to the west of the Andes in Panama, Colombia and Venezuela. The larger, and much more well-known species, Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris, is found in every country in South America except Chile. In these other South American countries, Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris is only found to the east of the Andes, from Venezuela in the North to the mouth of the River Plate, in Argentina. The Lesser capybara is found in Panama and this is the only country in Central America where capybaras live. Both species of capybara can be found in Colombia but the habitats in which they live are separated by the Andes; the Lesser capybara lives west of the Andes and the larger Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris lives east of the Andes. The Lesser capybara is found in northern parts of Colombia, along the Caribbean coast, the lowland headwaters of several rivers including the Catatumbo river, and the rivers to the north and west of the Sierra Nevada De Santa Marta. The Lesser capybara is also found in some valleys and in the Department of Choco. In Colombia the species is known as ponche or caco culopando, lancha and piropiro among other names. Populations of capybara in Colombia are thought to be small but there is little information available. Venezuela is the only other country where both species of capybara are found. In Venezuela, the Lesser capybara is only found around Lago de Maracaibo in Zulia state, west of the Andes. In Venezuela, as in Colombia, the 2 species of capybara are separated from each other by the Andes mountains. The 2 species are not sympatric, meaning they do not live in the same or in overlapping geographical areas.

Both species live in the same type of habitat: a wide variety of lowland habitats with access to ponds, lakes, rivers, swamps, streams or reservoirs. These habitats include gallery forests, seasonally flooded savannas and wetlands. The highest elevation where capybaras, only the larger Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris, have been found is 1500 meters in the Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park in Goias State in Brazil.

(A gallery forest is where the forested area forms a thin ribbon of trees, only a few meters wide, along a riverbank or bounding a wetland area. The surrounding area, moving away from the river or wetlands, is primarily grassland with at most a sparse scattering of trees. These gallery forests are able to exist because they draw water from the rivers. The extent of gallery forest are diminishing as a result of human activities.)

Like their larger relations, the Lesser capybara, Hydrochoerus isthmius, is semiaquatic and usually most active during the afternoon and at night to avoid predators. Capybaras have subcutaneous sweat glands which are sparsely distributed throughout the body, meaning that their ability to sweat is not well developed, so in order to control their body temperature (thermoregulate) in the heat of the day, capybaras rest in water or under the shade of trees and bushes. Capybaras also use water to escape from predators, and they prefer to mate in water. Water is also the source of their preferred aquatic plants, an important part of the capybara diet.

Capybaras tend to rest in the morning and then escape the heat of the day, in the early afternoon, by resting in water. The herd then grazes, on and off, from late afternoon until dawn. The capybara is a highly gregarious and social animal, most often found in family groups. These groups may be as small as a male capybara and one or 2 females, or larger groups of related females and a dominant male. There may also be 1 or 2 subordinate males, who are tolerated by the dominant male, because they stay on the periphery of the herd and act as lookout. Subordinate males emit the highest number of warning calls to alert the herd to possible danger. These subordinate males do mate, and the aggregate number of their matings may exceed that of the dominant male, but overall the dominant male mates the most. Female capybaras often prefer to be mated by the dominant male, so if a subordinate male is mating with her, she will often cry out, to alert the dominant male as to what is happening, so that he can come over and drive the subordinate male away. Female capybaras will also spent more time running away from, and alluding, a subordinate male who is trying to mate with them, than when a dominant male is chasing them to mate.

Capybaras are a sedentary species whose home range may extend from 5 – 16 hectares, depending on the amount of grazing available. This home range will include a large area of grassland, as grasses (and aquatic grasses) form the major part of the capybara diet, an area of slightly elevated dry land for resting, and a permanent body of water. Capybaras also live in forested/jungle habitats beside a river. In these forested habitats the family group usually consists of one male and 1 or 2 females. The Lesser capybara also eats algae.

There have been no studies indicating that interbreeding between the 2 species of capybara has taken place. However, in Colombia some capybaras of the larger species, Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris, were taken from the Orinoco River region to recreational houses in the Cauca Valley, from where they escaped into rivers and wetland areas.

Encounters between 2 species of the same genus can lead to hybridisation which may have detrimental effects on hybrid descendants. If these encounters are extensive it may result in the local extinction of both parental species. There is no evidence that this has or could happen to these 2 species of capybara, Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris and Hydrochoerus isthmius.

Scientific classification:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Rodentia

Family Caviidae

Genus Hydrochoerus

Species Hydrochoerus isthmius

The Lifestyle a Pet Capybara Expects 寵物水豚的生活方式 ペットカピバラのライフスタイル

Written by A Couple Who Have Lived With 2 Pet Capybaras for 8 Years

By Marvin Reeder and Elizabeth Ojeda Reeder

Romeo Elizabeth's Room Marvin 21 May 2020

Romeo and Tuff’n relaxing

It has been my observation that Capybaras will rest facing in different directions. They do this in order to be alerted to the first sight of room service delivering their breakfast, or any treats that may be arriving.

Capybaras are much more intelligent than most people realise. The ability to conceptualise is considered a sign of high intelligence. Many people cannot conceptualise, but Tuff’n can! Watch him as he solves his problem

Romeo and Tuff'n in bed with Marvin – Marvin's photo

Romeo and Tuff’n sleep in the family bed with Marvin and Elizabeth every night. They would feel rejected if they were forced to sleep separately from the family

Capybara are very sensitive animals and can be highly adaptable to many different environments. They are also highly intelligent and prefer the comforts of climate control, noise deadening windows, soft cushions to rest on, a comfortable warm bed with a heated blanket and other luxurious and plush surroundings.

Romeo in front of his new LIMO 28 February 2016

Romeo waits for his chauffeur to arrive. Please note the personalised number plate:ROUS. Rodents of Unusual Size for anyone who doesn’t know!

Among the things capybaras need and expect: permanent access to a warm bath and swimming pool, their drinking water to be heated slightly, a full-time masseur, grass and mud.

Romeo and Tuff’n have their own personal vet. She comes to their home, so that they don’t have to do go through the terrifying experience of visiting a public animal hospital. If they require an operation she can anaesthetise them, safely, on the sofa. Romeo is terrified of any building which reminds him of the animal hospital. Taking a capybara to the vet is not only very stressful for the capybara, but can also present many logistical problems. Elizabeth’s sister is a vet and she has created a permanently available prescription for antibiotics in case Romeo or Tuff’n develop an infection, so that they do not have to wait even an extra hour for treatment. Many pet capybaras die because their owners put off seeking treatment due to the cost of visiting a vet who specialises in exotic animals.

Interestingly, not all capybaras require a limousine. Romeo likes to monitor the chauffeur, standing with his front legs on the console, which has been specially padded and carpeted, and whispering instructions into the chauffeur’s ear from time to time, or nibbling his ear. In a limousine Romeo is prevented from having any direct access to the chauffeur by a glass partition. Capybaras may prefer a former racing driver to be their chauffeur; someone who can react quickly to avoid danger.

Romeo Tuff'n Kitchen

Tuff’n, Romeo and Shortrib waiting hopefully in the kitchen.  Every time Romeo and Tuff’n hear sounds emanating from the kitchen, they appear, noses pointing hopefully in the direction of the food

Tuff’n has watched the humans relaxing on li–lo’s in the pool and wants the same experience. He drags his cushion to the side of the pool, jumps in the pool, pulls the cushion in, and relaxes floating:

 Capybaras are exceptionally sensitive emotionally. More so than most humans. They are very aware of the moods of the people around them and can be easily upset. As wild animals their reactions may be instinctive, having evolved over millions of years to protect them from dangers. As a human you may have no idea what you have done to upset them, and why they have suddenly attacked you, with their very sharp teeth.

Capybara teeth are so sharp that the Amerindians of South America used the teeth as a spear point.

Like all rodents, capybaras hate to be controlled. In this, they are the complete opposite of dogs and horses. If you try to control a capybara you will destroy the relationship and the capybara’s trust.

Romeo sleeping with Liz July 2020

Romeo sleeping with Elizabeth on his special bed which includes a massage facility and a choice of positions and a choice of comfort levels

I have been observing and photographing this pair of wild capybara in their unnatural environment for about eight years. It has been my observation that they can be highly manipulative and cunning animals, able to control the minds of others.

I believe that if there were a greater number of capybaras in the world, in time they would become the dominant species and all humans would be subservient to them.

Marvin’s verdict: Please don’t keep a capybara as a pet:  the capybara will suffer.

Photos by Marvin Reeder and Elizabeth Ojeda Reeder

Why Aoba Should Be the Next Female Capybara to Breed at Nagasaki Bio Park青葉が長崎バイオパークで交尾する次の女性カピバラにならなければならない理由. 青葉は赤ちゃんが必要です

           

A keeper, Ban san, at a zoo in Fukuoka is on record as saying “Animal Welfare is not well understood in Japan. Most people in Japan do not understand animals”. Most zookeepers in Japan become zookeepers because they like the outdoor life, not because they like animals! I have only met one Japanese zookeeper who understood animals. The zookeeper training in Japan does not compare with the zookeeper training in Britain. Zookeepers in Britain understand that it is essential that the animals in their care trust the keepers. Very few of the capybaras trust the keepers at Nagasaki Bio Park. This can have grave consequences as Ryoko experienced.

” Aoba Sings Beautifully As She Begs Nagasaki Bio Park “Please Let Me Have Babies” 青葉赤ちゃんを産んでください”

 

In choosing which female capybara should breed it is important to understand the long-term consequences of this decision. The future cohesion of the herd will depend on this decision which is why it is important to choose a capybara who exhibits submissive behaviour as submissive behaviour is essential for the unity of the herd.

NWN Blissful Aoba NIbbled by Babies 21 Sep 2019 006

Aoba would make such a good motherZabon’s babies loved Aoba

Aoba understands the importance of submissive behaviour. This is why Hinase has accepted Aoba. Maple’s female offspring, Milk and Butter, do not exhibit the submissive behaviour needed to ensure the unity of the herd, which is why Hinase does not accept them and is aggressive towards them.

Aoba has the sweetest nature and will always respond to being petted, whereas Milk is moody and only response to being petted when she is in the mood to be petted. Milk can also be quite aggressive which is why Hinase does not like her.

Video: Aoba would be a wonderful mother as you can see in this video.  “Baby Capybaras Love Aoba, Aoba Loves Babies赤ちゃんカピバラは青葉が大好き、青葉は赤ちゃんが大好き”

 

If the future of the Bio Park herd descends only from Zabon and Maple’s offspring there will be more aggression and less cohesion. It would be a mistake to choose a female capybara to mate on the basis of her relationship with humans and her malleability, including the ability of the chief capybara keeper to interfere in the bonding process. (I watched with dismay as Zabon became less and less involved with her pups, as the chief capybara interfered more and more). It is important to understand that the relationship between the capybaras in the herd is the most important herd dynamic to be considered when choosing a female to breed.

Kona’s offspring have inherited his love of being petted so any capybara who is mated with Kona has the potential to give birth to capybaras who are very receptive to the human visitors. There is no need for the keeper to interfere in the bonding process, between mother capybara and newborn pups, in a misguided attempt to make the baby capybaras “friendly” to humans. European zookeepers do not handle newborns until two or three days or longer after they are born. (Choco and Donut were kept in a separate enclosure with their mother, Momiji, for the first six weeks of their lives. Within two days of moving to the main enclosure they were completely relaxed and happy to be petted by humans.

NWN Magnificent Aoba 10 Sep 2019 034

Aoba

At every zoo in Europe Aoba would be the obvious choice to breed. She is a large, very healthy capybara in her prime. She is sweet natured and intelligent. Her mother, Momiji, has invested a great deal in Aoba and the future of her bloodline. Momiji was an outstanding mother.

Momiji was a much better mother than Maple and Zabon. Momiji always gave Aoba milk whenever she demanded and allowed her to suckle for twice the usual length of time; Aoba suckled for 8 months rather than the usual 4 months. Momiji would be an outstanding grandmother and it would be a tragedy for her as well as for Aoba and the Bio Park if Aoba was not allowed to breed.

Missing photo:  Aoba and Zabon’s babies enjoy being together. Zabon was very thin and weak, and she had not bonded properly with her pups, so her babies went looking for other “mothers”. Alloparenting is a natural capybara behaviour and they loved Aoba.  She would be a wonderful mother 

Zabon died 2 months after giving birth.

The decision to mate Zabon for a second year in 2019 was very strange, some might even say cruel, given the suffering Zabon had experienced in 2018 after she gave birth. When Zabon gave birth in 2018 she lost a tremendous amount of weight and was literally skin and bones, she also lost a lot of hair and it seemed touch and go whether she would survive. Zabon also has a chronic foot problem which requires antibiotics to treat, but because she was pregnant she could not be given antibiotics and her foot became extremely swollen and painful. It was so painful that often she was having to hop on three legs. During the later stages of her pregnancy she had great difficulty jumping in and out of the pond when she needed to thermoregulate in the heat of August.

Zabon again became extremely thin after giving birth in 2019. She was often more interested in eating or sleeping than looking after her babies.

In the photos above, you can see how extremely thin Zabon became after giving birth in 2018. She suffered so much and became very weak; too weak to look after her babies.

I have just heard that Zabon died about two months after giving birth. This tragically proves my point that no keeper with an understanding of Capybara Behaviour and Animal Welfare would have chosen to breed Zabon for a second year.

In addition, although Zabon is a very gentle capybara she comes from a very aggressive family. Zabon’s mother, Aki, was so aggressive that she became herd leader at the young age of 3. Her siblings Goemon and Yuzu were also very aggressive.

Unfortunately, Zabon’s babies seen to have inherited the family’s aggressive nature. Ko and Madoka are extremely aggressive, Ko is the most aggressive yearling capybara I have ever encountered. Sasuke and Kikyo also seem very aggressive. The last thing the Biopark needs is more aggressive capybaras.

So choosing to mate Zabon for a second year in 2019, made absolutely no sense.

Maple and her female offspring are not popular with other herd members. Butter is a bit strange, which is probably why Hinase dislikes her, therefore Butter obviously should not breed.

This is some of the submissive behaviour which Aoba exhibits: Aoba nibbles Hinase’s ear and nuzzles her under the chin, both behaviours which Hinase finds very pleasurable. On one occasion Hinase had a very painful mouth wound after Maple bit her. Hinase found some relief in rubbing her morillo which she did many more times than usual each day until the wound healed. Aoba sensed this and went over to Hinase and rubbed Hinase’s morillo using her chin. Aoba is also very sensitive to Hinase’s moods and avoids upsetting her. As a result Hinase has accepted Aoba. I have these behaviours recorded on video (see above and below).

Butter seems oblivious to Hinase’s moods and often behaves in a slightly strange way. Butter can be very aggressive and is not popular with the herd which is why she has gravitated towards humans but this does not make her a good choice for breeding.

If any of Maple’s female offspring were to be mated and become pregnant this would anger Hinase. A heavily pregnant female who is chased by Hinase runs the danger of suffering a miscarriage. ( I believe Ryoko suffered a partial miscarriage when she was frightened by one of the keepers and ran flat out to the edge of the pond. Capybaras seek refuge from danger in water. After a minute or so Ryoko lay down and then experienced three violent spasms. I said to Marc that I thought Ryoko had suffered a miscarriage; she was within three weeks of giving birth at the time of this tragedy. Her pups had to be delivered by C-section. Ryoko became so weak following this procedure that she was attacked by other herd members and she has had to be permanently separated from the herd which is tragic.)

Milk is a much more aggressive capybara than Aoba. It is only her relatively junior place in the hierarchy which keeps her aggression in check.

Hinase particularly hates Butter and frequently chases her. I can understand Hinase’s behaviour as Butter may be slightly mad. Like horses who are not popular with their herd members, Butter and indeed Maple’s other female offspring, seek out human company. This may make them popular with some people but for the future good of the herd, and the dynamic of the herd, these are not the capybaras an informed zoo keeper would choose to breed to.

Aoba comes from the best bloodline at Nagasaki Bio Park. Her grandmother was Donguri, a natural leader who avoided aggression. Donguri was also very compassionate, visiting and giving support to any capybara who had been separated from the herd and was therefore very stressed. Her offspring, Yasuo and Yasuha, and Yamato, and her grandson Choco, inherited this wise, intelligent, compassionate and non-aggressive nature.

“Baby Capybara Aoba is Very Affectionate and Playful 訪問者は青葉友好的な愛情の遊び心が大好き,”

Missing photo:  Zabon’s baby, Kikyo, loved resting on Aoba 

This bloodline: Donguri, her daughter Momiji and Momiji’s daughter Aoba are likely to provide the most desirable capybaras for the future of the herd. This bloodline also includes Choco, one of the most popular capybaras at the Bio Park who pioneered several new behaviours which captivated the visitors who came to see the capybaras, many of whom came specially to meet Choco. Momiji was a fantastic mother and daughter.

NWN 2 black baby Aoba on Momiji 2014

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

Momiji was a much better mother than Maple or Zabon. She was always watchful of her young pups and when Choco, Donut and Macaroni joined the main herd at six weeks of age, Momiji took them on a grand tour of the enclosure and the pond showing them the best places to jump out of the pond and to escape the visitors. Momiji always gave her pups milk when they demanded, no matter how greedy and demanding they were. Maple, by contrast, frequently sat on a bench high above her pups, to prevent them from being able to suckle, consequently Cookie and Butter were much smaller than Aoba even though they were a little older.

To repeat: It Would Be Very Misguided, and a tragedy for Nagasaki Bio Park, Aoba and Momiji If Aoba Was Not Allowed to Mate.