Veterinarians gave their first exam this morning to four capybaras, members of the world’s largest rodent species, born Monday at the San Diego Zoo. The exam included weighing the youngsters; checking their eyes, ears and overall physical health; and taking a sample of hair for use in determining the sex of each one. Like many other species of rodents, there are no visible signs to indicate the sex of these animals until they reach maturity, which is about 18 months to 2 years.
The four capybaras, which weighed between 3.5 and 4 pounds, were born on-exhibit in the Harry and Grace Steele Elephant Odyssey. They were discovered by keepers at around 6 a.m. Aug. 10. Their mother, Buttercup, is an experienced mom: This is her sixth litter, and she has given birth to a total of 23 babies. The father of these four is a capybara named Wesley.
Guests visiting the San Diego Zoo can see the capybaras, who are walking and swimming on their own. All of the females in the group help to care for—and even nurse—the babies.
Capybaras are the world’s largest rodent and are found east of the Andes, on Central and South American riverbanks, beside ponds and in marshes, or wherever standing water is available. Due to its dry skin, the capybara requires a swimming hole as part of its lifestyle, to stay healthy.
The capybara is not currently classified as an endangered species, although it is threatened by deforestation, habitat destruction and illegal poaching. It was in trouble not too long ago, though, due to hunting. Local people have used this animal as a food source for centuries, and have been seen wearing capybara teeth as ornaments.
Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.