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11 05/11/2015

World’s largest rodent born

  • Capybaras
  • Mammals
  • New arrivals

The world's largest species of rodent has given birth at Chester Zoo.

Baby capybara and mother at Chester Zoo
A baby capybara walks alongside its mum as it explores its surroundings for the first time.

A baby capybara, which has not yet been sexed, was born at the zoo on 19 October and at just over two-weeks-old, the tiny youngster can already walk and swim on its own.

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.

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.

Capybara baby at Chester Zoo

Capybara facts

  • Capybaras are the largest of the world’s rodent species
  • They are found over much of South America
  • They are highly adapted to an aquatic lifestyle and even mate in water
  • Like rabbits, they eat their own dung to extract maximum nutrition from their food
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