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Spring and Francis Go to Africa

ABQ BioPark’s capybara siblings getting accustomed to their new habitat.

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Above: Francis at the ABQ BioPark Zoo. Photo: ABQ BioPark.

02/01/2017 - The ABQ BioPark Zoo’s capybaras Spring and Francis have been in their new habitat in the facility’s Africa section for a few months, and they’re getting to know their new keepers and surroundings.

Capybaras are native to South America, but Spring and Francis recently moved from their spot in Tropical America to make way for the construction of the Penguin Chill exhibit.

Although both capybaras seem comfortable with their new keepers, male Francis is bolder than his shyer sister Spring, said Senior Zookeeper Chaz Moxley.

Each has their own personality, and Moxley said the two have a stereotypical sibling relationship.

“They really do act like brother and sister,” said Moxley. “They have their moments. They squabble.”

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Above: Spring at the ABQ BioPark Zoo. Photo: ABQ BioPark.

Their new habitat features something Francis and Spring didn’t have before—a new barn, which the two take advantage of at night and during colder days.

Capybaras are known to be gregarious, often taking part in hardy choruses, and Spring and Francis are no exception.  The two squeal often, according to Moxley.

Enrichment items that you might see in the capybara habitat include plastic toys like balls and logs for them to chew on—this helps keep their teeth from overgrowing.

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Above: Francis in his old pool in Tropical America.

The species has webbed feet, great for swimming. Like their old habitat, the capybara’s new space features a pool, which will be refilled in the warmer months. Moxley said zookeepers will throw in some plastic toys and ice blocks for the capybaras to chew on.

“It’s really great when they’re in the pool,” said Moxley. “They really have fun in there.”

Moxley is working on accustoming the two to brushing and hand feeding, which could help with proactive health care by enabling staff to get closer, inspect the animals visually and even give medicine by hand.

“They’re one of the animals at the zoo that we can have far more interaction with,” said Moxley.  “They’re fun. It’s neat to work with the world’s largest rodent.”