I have been to the Taronga Zoo umpteen times and have written about it on numerous occasions earlier. Yet every time, the family brings in a new inclusion, I get all agog with excitement – and anticipate when to make a visit yet again. Be it the Sumatran tigers or their newborn cubs, the cheeky upright meerkats or an incredibly cute echidna puggle, sometimes, people just require an excuse to grab their camera and pretend to be a child once again, scrambling for the Zoo.
This time, it was the charisma of the Capybaras. To be ignorantly honest, I didn’t even know these critters existed. Yet when I read these are the world’s largest rodents, I had to see them. I had told you – some people just require an excuse!
A bit of research, and I realised they belong to the ‘Rodentia’ order – the largest Order in the animal kingdom (remember Taxonomy? Many species relate to a genus, genus to a family, family to an order and so on). This order includes rats, gophers, squirrels, porcupines, beavers and capybaras, the latter being the king in terms of size – and can weigh as much as an average human being! They are more like giant, cuboid versions of rats or gophers, looking like a strange cross between a terrier dog and a beaver. In fact, their semi-aquatic lifestyle resembles beavers the most and while the beavers hail from North America, the capybaras come from the faraway Amazon forests. And just like other rodents, these animals always need to nibble away to keep in check their ever-growing teeth.
It was a sunny summer afternoon at Taronga, and the setting for these animals matched the usual Taronga standards – large baobab like trees, thick shrubbery, a waterfall and running water for the capybaras. I took my usual snaps, envied their water-world and imagined these terrier rodents living faraway in the swampy riverine richness of the Amazon. Another new day, another new learning from the endless riches of the world. Let’s just hope all of this remains for posterity…