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Close encounters of the capybara kind coming to the Zoo

Wellington Zoo has announced the introduction of a new Capybara Close Encounter for early 2019.

The Zoo family of the world’s largest rodents includes one male, Pepe, and females Vara and Iapa, who is the mother to the most recent litter of babies.

While bookings for the encounters won’t be available until next year, visitors can purchase a Close Encounter Gift Card at the Zoo, or on the Zoo website, for a unique Christmas gift.

Wellington Zoo’s Close Encounters are an opportunity for visitors to meet an animal up close; learn more about them and what they can do to help them in the wild.

Participants also learn how their Close Encounter helps Wellington Zoo in their work to save animals, as 10 per cent of proceeds go towards projects supported by the Wellington Zoo Conservation Fund.

Capybaras share similar features with guinea pigs, such as their ever-growing front teeth, but also have partially webbed feet, which means they are excellent swimmers. They are herbivorous, eating mostly grass, water plants and vegetables, as well as fruit and tree bark.

Capybaras are not endangered, though their population has been affected by hunting and habitat loss. Capybara are native to Central and South America with many other animals sharing nearby habitats, such as the Golden Lion Tamarin and the Cotton-Top Tamarin, which are listed as endangered and critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Pepe, the adult male capybara

Wellington Zoo actively supports a range of both local and global conservation projects to help save animals that live in the same home range as capybara.

The Zoo has partnered with organisations such as Associatcão Mico-Leão-Dourado (AMLD) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to save the Golden Lion Tamarin, as well as Proyecto Titi in Colombia, to monitor wild populations of Cotton Top Tamarins.

Wellington Zoo is New Zealand’s first Zoo, established in 1906. It is Wellington’s oldest conservation organisation, and home to over 500 native and exotic animals.