World’s largest rodent born at Paignton Zoo
The world’s largest rodent species has given birth at Paignton Zoo.
The capybara, sometimes called the giant guinea pig, comes from parts of South America and can grow up to 1.3 metres in length.
Paignton Zoo is home to a pair of capybaras. Male David was born at Twycross Zoo in March 2008 and came to Paignton Zoo in July 2009. Female Davina, born at Chessington Zoo in October 2008, arrived at Paignton Zoo in August 2009.
The youngster - their first and as yet unsexed - was born on Wednesday 18th August.
Capybaras are found on grassland and in tropical rainforest. They spend a lot of time in the water: their eyes and nostrils are on the tops of their heads so that they can stay submerged with very little of their body showing.
One of the main parts of their diet in the wild is the water hyacinth. Paignton Zoo's Gardens Department has grown plants especially for the resident capybaras to eat this year.
The capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) lives in family groups near to water, where they swim or wallow during the hottest part of the day. Up to 7 youngsters can be born after a gestation of 150 days (5 months). Mating takes place in the water. The capybara has slightly webbed toes, which help it to swim.
Capybaras are not at present endangered but their captive populations in British and Irish zoos are managed co-operatively.
Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to www.paigntonzoo.org.uk or ring (01803) 697500.