California Zoo Welcomes Adorable Year-Old Sister Capybaras

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by michaklootwijk via Getty Images)

For years, Happy Hollow Park & Zoo’s capybara habitat housed an elderly gent by the name of Meenie. Sadly, however, Meenie was euthanized in March of this year. He had reached the grand old age of 12, about two years past his expected lifespan, and was no longer enjoying a high quality of life.

Following the loss of Meenie, Happy Hollow’s capybara habitat sat, sad and empty, awaiting its newest resident. That is until two sister capybaras were welcomed home at last.

The yet-to-be-named sisters were born a little over a year ago in the Abeline Zoo in Texas. Once fully grown, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Capybara Species Survival Plan recommended their transfer to Happy Hollow.

Just over a week ago, the sisters were safely transported the 1,500 miles from central Texas to the California coast, where they’ve spent their time swimming, munching on bamboo, and sunbathing on the banks of their private pond.

Happy Hollow Zoo Responds to Capybaras’ Arrival

Happy Hollow Park & Zoo couldn’t be happier to have their new residents, their capybara habitat providing a safe and cheerful home to this adorable species once again. Though capybaras aren’t endangered, taking steps to ensure their long-term viability is essential.

“Capybaras are a critical part of the Amazon Rainforest ecosystem, an endangered habitat, and we hope to kindle a spirit of conservation in our guests by giving them the opportunity to observe these animals in person,” Happy Hollow Zoo Manager Amber Rindy said in a statement on their website.

“We know the public has been eagerly anticipating the return of capybaras to Happy Hollow,” she continued. “And we are excited for our community to meet these new animals and learn about this unique species.”

The sisters’ enclosure is “designed to allow for the possibility” of mating. Happy Hollow, however, doesn’t plan to breed them, according to zoo spokesperson Caitlin O’Hara. That said, it’s not an impossibility, either.

“If the Capybara Species Survival Plan was to recommend a male be moved to Happy Hollow sometime in the future to breed with our females, then we would follow that recommendation and accept that male, if possible,” O’Hara said.

The largest rodents in the world, capybaras are a fascinating species. Their native habitats are in Central and South America and they’re known for their affinity for water.

Though cousins of the guinea pigs, capybaras have webbed feet and can hold their breath for astounding lengths of time. When threatened, these unusual mammals can stay underwater for up to five minutes in an effort to hide from predators.