The San Diego Zoo has a group of capybaras that can be seen in the Elephant Odyssey habitat. They are trained to walk onto a scale for their monthly weight checks, to come into their bedroom area when called, to go into crates, and to sit still for a quick physical evaluation. All this is accomplished with the aid of a powerful motivator—the food treat! Our largest female, Rose, enjoys belly rubs, foot massages, and scratches on a daily basis. You can often spot keepers hand-feeding our capybara group in the morning, as many of them like to lie at their feet. With all this special attention, no wonder we have had 13 babies born since the exhibit opened in 2009!
Stop by Elephant Odyssey to see these large and unusual rodents. You may see them swimming in their pool, lounging in the sun, or eating their snacks. But no matter what they’re doing, the water pigs will surely astound you.
The capybara is not currently classified as an endangered species, although it is threatened by deforestation, habitat destruction, and illegal poaching. It was in trouble not too long ago, though, due to hunting. Local people have used this animal as a food source for centuries and have been seen wearing capybara teeth as ornaments.
Now, capybaras are being farmed for their meat as part of a mammal management plan in Venezuela and Colombia. This helps to protect the capybaras left in the wild and their wild habitat, which, in turn, helps all of the plants and animals that call that habitat home.
You can help us bring other species back from the brink by supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.