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Metro Richmond Zoo celebrates 3 capybara births

Three baby capybaras are seen wading in water
Billy Shields
VPM News
These are the three female capybaras that were recently born at the Metro Richmond Zoo.

These pups are the offspring of resident capys Flora and Ocho.

The Metro Richmond Zoo recently welcomed three capybaras who were born in captivity.

“People have loved them, people posted on social media about them; we posted about them on the website,” said Taylor Andelin, a zoo spokesperson.

Currently, the three pups (born in late April) are each roughly the size of a loaf of bread, and they swim in a small outdoor pool near the enclosure that also includes tapirs and rheas, which are native to the same habitat and are not predators.

Zoo officials say all three pups are females and the offspring of Flora and Ocho, a pair zoo officials mated in November.

Capybaras are native to South America, where they can be found in rivers, marshes and swamps. They’re also the world’s largest species of rodent, which can grow to be the size of a labrador retriever. In Brazil, they can often be seen just above the surface of bodies of fresh water. They are excellent swimmers — a necessary trait to avoid predators like jaguars, anacondas and ocelots.

“If you look at them, they’re very oddly shaped: They have nostrils, eyes and ears that stick up out of the water,” said Cristen Lee, an animal care manager at the zoo.

A female capybara can have anywhere from three to 12 pups a year, a birth rate that has contributed to biologists labeling them of “least concern.”

Metro Richmond Zoo is almost 30 years old and tucked into a wooded part of Chesterfield County that is often overlooked by area residents. Andelin said the capybaras, along with other baby animals at the zoo, are going a long way toward raising the local profile.

Some residents who frequent the zoo, like Ellie Sowinski, have been returning to check them periodically. Speaking to VPM News, she was wearing a capybara backpack, a pair of capybara earrings and a T-shirt that read “I love capybaras” in pink letters.

“I own two guinea pigs, and capybaras are like the bigger version of them,” she said. “That’s what sparked my fascination of them.”

Billy Shields is a multimedia journalist with VPM News Focal Point.
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