Belfast Zoo keepers are saying ‘hola’ to two Capybara babies! The twins were born to mother, Lola, and father, Chester, on April 2.
The Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) is a South American mammal that resembles a giant Guinea Pig. They are the largest rodents in the world and measure up to 130 centimeters in length (4.2 feet).
The scientific name for this species “hydrochaeris” is Greek for ‘water hog’. This refers to the fact that the Capybara is a semi-aquatic mammal.
The species is native to Central and South American riverbanks, ponds, and marshes. When the Capybara swims, its eyes, ears and nostrils are positioned above the water to help with vision and breathing. This unusual animal has webbed feet and can even hold its breath for up to five minutes underwater!
The arrival of the two latest Capybara babies means that Belfast Zoo is now home to a total of thirteen. In the wild, these rodents live in large family groups of ten to 40 individuals. They are incredibly vocal and communicate through barks, whistles, huffs and purrs.
Zoo Curator, Raymond Robinson, said, "Our Capybaras share their home with some other South American 'amigos', including Giant Anteaters and Darwin's Rhea. While the Capybara is not currently classified as an endangered species, it is hunted and poached for its meat and skin. It is important that zoos, such as Belfast Zoo, help to raise awareness of this species and the increasing dangers which Capybara face in their natural habitat. We have no doubt that our South American babies will soon be a firm favourite with visitors!"