Cuban Hutias are not commonly seen in zoos, but NaturZoo Rheine has been home to some of these fascinating rodents since the late 1980s. Their current colony, originating from the Munich Zoo, recently increased its size. On September 1, two hutia mothers delivered their young; one birthed twins and the other a single birth.
Also known as Desmarest’s Hutia, the Cuban Hutia (Capromys pilorides) is a species of rodent endemic to Cuba. Weighing up to 19 lbs. (8.5 kg), it is the largest of the extant species of hutia.
They are found in a wide range of habitats throughout Cuba. In northern Cuba, they tend to be centered on areas where mangroves are abundant, and southern populations tend to favor terrestrial habitat.
Cuban Hutias normally live in pairs, but can be found alone or in small groups. They are diurnal and do not burrow. During the night, they rest in hollows of rocks or trees. They are omnivorous, eating mostly bark, leaves and fruit, but they will occasionally take in small vertebrates, such as lizards.
They breed throughout the year with a gestation period of between 110 to 140 days, although peak season is in June or July. They typically produce one to three young. The offspring are precocial, with fur, fully opened eyes and the ability to walk. In captivity, they are known to share nursing and rearing duties of all young within the colony. They are weaned at around five months and reach sexual maturity at about ten months.
Hutias were traditionally hunted for food in Cuba, as their quality of flesh and size provides a substantial meal. At one time, they were also raised as a minor stock animal. In 1968, it was made illegal to hunt or kill hutias without a permit from Cuba’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. Cuban Hutias are currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, all other species of hutia are considered threatened (excluding the Prehensile-tailed Hutia, which is classified as “Near Threatened”). At least one third of the identified species of hutia are now extinct.
More great pics, below the fold!