— Chester Zoo (@chesterzoo) 17 May 2016
Zookeepers spotted mum Lochley giving birth to her first two youngsters at around 7:30am on Tuesday (17/05/16) with the third and fourth members of her new quartet arriving just before 11am, in front of amazed visitors.
Sometimes referred to as the giant guinea pig, the capybara comes from South America and is the world’s largest rodent, growing up to 1.5m (4.9ft) in length.
James Andrewes, assistant team manager at the zoo, said:
Lochley gave birth out in the sunshine – her first two pups arriving before the zoo had opened with her second two born a little later, in front of a handful of rather astonished visitors.
Within no time, all of the babies were up on their feet, running around, sniffing buttercups and clambering over mum.
We can already see that they’re going to be a bit of a handful for Lochley but she’s looking fairly unfazed and I can see her keeping them in line without too much trouble. They’ll nurse around seven times a day and it’s at feeding time that they tend to settle down… for a short while at least!
Capybaras are found on grassland and in tropical rainforest, but spend much of their time in the water. Their eyes and nostrils are on the tops of their heads so they can stay submerged with very little of their body showing – helping them to avoid detection by predators such as jaguars, anacondas and caiman.
While the capybara is not currently classified as an endangered species, it is threatened by habitat degradation and illegal poaching for its meat and skin, which can be turned into leather. We’re hoping the new arrivals will help to raise the profile of the often overlooked species.
Our keepers said it may not be too long until they see the pitter-patter of more tiny webbed capybara feet and the next day another capybara, Lilly, also gave birth to FOUR cubs.
• 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• The scientific name for the capybara means ‘water hog’