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Ten Little Nutrias Nibble at Zoo Basel

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Ten baby Nutrias are frolicking through the foliage in the Nutria enclosure at the Basel Zoo. With so many busy babies, visitors will always find something to watch at this popular exhibit.

Basel Zoo has kept Nutrias since 1943, and more than 400 youngsters have been born at the zoo since then. Baby Nutrias are born fully furred and with their eyes open. They begin eating plant material within hours of birth, but they also nurse for seven to eight weeks. These diurnal rodents are semiaquatic, so they divide their time between land and water. Adults weigh 10-20 pounds.

Biberratte_jungtiere_ZO56213Photo Credit: Zoo Basel

Nutrias, also known as Coypu, are native to South America, where they live near rivers and lakes. They feed on plants and live in large groups, which also have smaller subgroups within them. The subgroups are made up of breeding pairs and their offspring.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Nutrias were hunted for their beautiful red-brown fur, and were later bred in farms in Europe, North America, and Africa. As animals occasionally escaped from the farms, populations of these highly adaptable animals became established all over the world. 

The feeding and burrowing behaviors of Nutrias can be destructive to wetlands where they have been introduced, so in some areas they are seen as a nuisance. Each animal may eat up to 25% of its body weight in vegetation every day. They are often mistaken for Beavers (which are much larger than Nutrias) and Muskrats (which are smaller than Nutrias).

Nutrias are currently listed as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).