A Capybara was born October 19th at Chester Zoo in the UK. Although just over two-weeks-old, the tiny youngster can already walk and swim. The newborn rodent has also begun eagerly exploring the exhibit with mum.
Capybaras are semi-aquatic mammals and originate from South America. They can grow up to almost 1.5m in length and weigh up to 60kg.
Dr. Nick Davis, Assistant Curator of Mammals at the zoo, said, “Our new arrival is tiny and can barely be seen above the grass when it follows mum on adventures across the paddock. It only weighs a few hundred grams at the moment but, in time, it’ll grow into a really chunky rodent.”
“While the Capybara is not currently classified as an endangered species, it is hunted and poached for its meat and skin, which can be turned into leather. So it’s important that our new arrival helps us raise the profile of this often overlooked species,” Dr. Davis shared.
The sex of the newborn is not currently known by keepers.
The Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) is a large rodent of the genus Hydrochoerus of which the only other extant member is the lesser Capybara (Hydrochoerus isthmius). Although a close relative of guinea pigs and rock cavies, it is more distantly related to the agouti, chinchillas, and the coypu. Native to South America, the Capybara inhabits savannas and dense forests and prefers to live near bodies of water. They are social and can be found in groups of up to 100 individuals.
The scientific name for the Capybara means ‘water hog’, and their bodies have been specially adapted for swimming - with webbed feet and their eyes, ears and nostrils located on top of their heads. They are able to stay submerged in water for around five minutes to help avoid detection by predators such as jaguars, anacondas and caiman in their native South America.
Capybaras are herbivores, grazing mainly on grasses and aquatic plants, as well as fruit and tree bark. Their jaw hinge is not perpendicular and they chew food by grinding back-and-forth rather than side-to-side.
They have a gestation period of about 130 to 150 days and usually produce a litter of four. Newborn Capybaras will join the rest of the group as soon as they are mobile. Within a week, the offspring can eat grass, but they will continue to suckle, from any female in the group, until about 16 weeks.