Pretoria Zoo is new home for world’s largest rodents
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Pretoria - To enhance its site and offering to visitors, the National Zoological Gardens, or Pretoria Zoo, is rehousing capybaras, the largest rodents in the animal kingdom, which it last exhibited in 1999.
One male and two female capybaras, which are originally from the Netherlands, will now call the Zoo home.
Like beavers, capybaras are strong swimmers. Their pig-shaped bodies are adapted for life in water found in forests, seasonally flooded savannas and wetlands.
Their toes are partially webbed for paddling around, and their reddish to dark brown fur is long and brittle – perfect for drying out quickly on land.
Like other rodents, capybaras’ teeth grow continuously. They wear them down by grazing on aquatic plants and grasses.
They also eat their own faeces in the morning – the grasses that make up their diet are difficult to digest, and so their waste breaks down the vegetation.
International tourist Sherry Zhang, from China, said that during an exhibition of the rodents at the Zoo yesterday she was glad that the Zoo had added other animals, and was hopeful that this would attract even more international travellers and locals.
Director of animal collection at the Zoo Tracy Rehse said they had brought back the rodents in order to find a balance between endangered and non-endangered species, and to also find what appealed to their visitors and what did not.
“In South Africa, capybaras are listed as an invasive alien species and we are not allowed to breed them. We will only have these three.”
Rehse added that the Zoo was also planning to introduce an ecosystem of South American animals in South Africa.