World’s Friendliest Rodent Debuts At Taronga Zoo

There the world’s largest rodent but unlike most rodents, the Capybara doesn’t really exude a rodent vibe. You’re probably not going to find one digging through your garbage or scurrying around city alleyways late at night. Probably a good thing because at two-feet tall and weighing nearly 80kg, they’re a hefty critter.

Sydney’s Taronga Zoo recently opened its new Capybara habitat, which is the first time these adorable animals have been on display in Sydney.

It’s home to a herd of five cheeky new recruits - Pedro, Guillermo, Sanchez, Carlos and Rodney. Their new habitat at Taronga incorporates open, grassed areas for grazing, large trees to provide shade, thicker shrubbery for shelter, and a large water feature for swimming and soaking.

Native to South America, Capybaras are a semi-aquatic mammal with webbed feet and they’re equally at home on land or in water. To cool off in the summer heat and get away from predators, they can dive and stay underwater for up to five minutes at a time although some of their predators such as Caiman and the anaconda are equally at home in the water.

Put them on flat land though and they can reach speeds of up to 35km/h.

A capybara having a snack.
Photo Credit: Supplied

What makes them quite unique is they’re pretty social and like to hangout in small groups and can be often seen grazing together.  With their mates, these social critters can be heard communicating with each other by purring, barking, cackling, whistling, squealing and grunting, with each sound delivering a different message and meaning.

Interestingly, they’re known for putting other animals at ease in their presence and there are numerous pictures of them hanging out with other animals in the wild and often in captivity as well. Even dogs don’t mind spending time with them so maybe they’re a dog’s best friend.

Besides caiman and anaconda, capybaras are also considered rather tasty treats by the likes of jaguar, puma and even eagles in their native South America.

Taronga Zoo Director, Mr Simon Duffy said the opening of the new Capybara habitat at Taronga Zoo, is “part of our evolution as a modern zoo.”

A zoo visit today is about being inspired by some of the world’s wildlife while also discovering ways each of us can live more sustainably and conserve wildlife,” said Mr Duffy.

“We want to educate people when they come into the zoo about the wild, in ways which are dignified for the animals, but also exciting for visitors. With the nature of Capybaras being very social, we’ve designed the new habitat, to allow visitors to get up and close to these animals, so people can really get to know them,” said Mr Duffy.

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