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County Executive's Office

Two Young Capybara Siblings Join the Henry Vilas Zoo Family

September 18, 2012
Casey Slaughter Becker, Office of the County Executive 608.267.8823 or cell, 608.843.8858
County Executive


The Henry Vilas Zoo family continues to grow this summer with the new addition of two young capybaras from Canada, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced today.


“Our free Henry Vilas Zoo continues to grow, and continues to offer something for everyone year-round,” said Parisi.  “I encourage our residents and visitors to say hello to our new Capybaras at the zoo and enjoy the great stretch of weather we’ve got coming up.”


The Capybaras, a brother and sister pair, originally hail from the Greater Vancouver Zoo in British Columbia, Canada.  Henry Vilas Zoo worked with the Capybara Species Survival Plan (SSP) to locate the young animals and bring them to Dane County.


Capybaras are native to South America and prefer to live around water. They are the largest rodent in the world and can weigh up to nearly 150 pounds.  Wild capybaras live in a group of 3-10 adults and their young.  Everyone pitches in to help – the adults assist other adult Capybaras in raising their babies, with any mother of the group nursing any baby that needs it.


In addition, all of the Capybaras in their “family unit” stay on watch for danger.  This cooperation helps them survive in the wild, where they are hunted by anacondas, caimans, jaguars, and humans.  When Capybaras are frightened, they bark an alarm call and hide in water with only their eyes and nose peeking out.  Capybaras can stay fully-submerged under water for up to five minutes.


“We are very happy to have young capybaras back in our collection since they are such a favorite with zoo visitors,” said Henry Vilas Zoo Director Ronda Schwetz.  “Once they acclimate to their new surroundings, you will be able to see them during nice weather out in their yard.”


The Capybaras and the rest of the Henry Vilas Zoo family can be seen every day from 9:30am to 5pm.  The public can also keep up to date on everything new at the zoo at vilaszoo.orgor on the zoo’s Facebook page at



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