The Santa Barbara Zoo is now home to two new capybaras, brother and sister Antonio and Mirabel, who have come to Santa Barbara from the Montgomery Zoo in Alabama, where they were born on July 26.
Antonio and Mirabel are getting acquainted with Poppy, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s 4-year-old capybara, and acclimating to their new habitat.
The capybaras are part of a Species Survival Plan (population management and conservation program for selected species of wildlife), so the zoo is hoping the three will form a new herd.
“Antonio and Mirabel both have big personalities and even bigger appetites,” said Kristen Wieners, zoo manager. “They are very curious about staff and exploring new things, and we are really enjoying getting to know them.”
Capybaras need careful introductions to new herd mates, as they can be protective of their homes. Until the group is comfortable together, Poppy will take turns in the habitat with Antonio and Mirabel, the zoo said.
Capybaras are the largest rodent in the world, and are native to Central and South America.
Well-adapted to life near the water, the semi-aquatic mammals have partially webbed feet, making capybaras strong swimmers capable of staying underwater for up to five minutes. This ability helps when capybaras are trying to escape predators such as jaguars, anacondas, and harpy eagles.
Like other rodents, capybaras’ front teeth continuously grow to compensate for being worn down from their diet of grasses and water plants.
The capybara is listed as “least concern” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. However, in recent years it has become increasingly difficult to find the shy and sometimes nocturnal animal in the wild.
Deforestation and habitat destruction are factors, and until recently hunting and poaching as a food source. New captive farming programs have helped relieve poaching.
The Santa Barbara Zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. for members, 9:30 a.m. for general admission, until 5 p.m.; general admission is $25 for adults, $15 for children ages 2-12, and free for children under 2. Parking is $11. For more, visit www.sbzoo.org.