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Capybara

That's a lot of rodent!

capybara

Imagine your pet guinea pig growing to a whopping 120 pounds—that’s a lot of rodent.

This is how big the capybara can get. A relative of ground squirrels and guinea pigs, it is the largest rodent in the world.

The ABQ BioPark Zoo has two capybaras—Francis and his sister Spring. After spending the first two years of their life at the Little Rock Zoo, these siblings arrived in Albuquerque in mid-2015. The pair was moved to the Africa section of the Zoo during the construction of the upcoming Penguin Chill exhibit.

Spring and Francis had some sibling rivalry when they first arrived at the zoo, so zookeepers helped them re-acclimate to each other.

This isn’t uncommon. Although extremely social—they often live in groups of 10-20 individuals—capybaras are also highly territorial, which can lead to scuffles.

This mega-sized rodent can live up to 12-15 years in zoos—compare this to only about four years in the wild, where they serve as prey to many animals like the jaguar, anaconda and puma.

Besides their great size, webbed feet set capybaras apart from other rodents—they love water and spend a lot of time swimming. They live in swampy, grassy regions bordering rivers, ponds, streams and lakes in Central America and South America.

Like some other mammals, capybaras participate in alloparenting, a system where individuals other than the parents act in a parental role to the group’s young. This means female capybaras are glad to suckle any pup in their social group!

Capybaras are not endangered, but their numbers have declined in some areas. One factor leading to this large rodent’s decline is hunting. Hunters seek their meat and hides. They also target capybaras for grease from their thick fatty skin, which is used in the pharmaceutical trade. In addition, the capybara’s habitat is shrinking.

Capybaras are a food staple of other species like the jaguar, which is endangered. For this reason, protecting capybaras is important in maintaining healthy populations of predators like the jaguar.