Forget Married at First Sight, the craziest hookups are happening at Wellington Zoo. Capybara reporter Emily Writes reveals all.
I’ve been obsessed with the capybaras at Wellington Zoo for a long time now. They first arrived in 2016 from Paris. Sister wives Vara, Guara and Iapa and pseudo husband Guarani.
I loved them on sight, those gentle giants resembling wine barrels with legs. The lady capybaras are tight and spend most of their time lying around gossiping. The more I found out about them the more fascinated I was by them. They get along with all animals and spend their days just lying about talking about the latest royal scandal (Did William bang a CHUMLEY?) and eating a mainly paleo diet.
So far, so chill. Then Auckland Zoo sent us Pepe. Pepe the Casanova capybara. Here’s what they said about Pepe before he began getting down with all the lady capybaras: “Pepe is a sweet and gentle natured animal and we’re hoping the females will like him just as much as we do. Capybaras are pretty easy going, so they will generally get on well with each other and other animals. It shouldn’t be too difficult matching them up, they’ll ‘swipe right’ to most, so to speak.”
The read-between-the-lines here is that capybaras have standards about as high as mine, and I met my husband at the Realm in Hataitai. Knowing how potent Pepe was and how easy the capybaras are, the zoo laid out the plan:
“We’re taking our time with introducing Pepe so we will be introducing each of the females to him separately. The youngest female, Iapa, will be the first to get up close with him.”
And get close she did. Just five months ago, Iapa delivered seven adorable chuffy fat ones. They’re adorable and while they don’t have names yet I have named the sleepy one Emily, the one with the great hair Beyoncé, the one that’s always swimming Swimmy, the one that eats lots of grass Dak, the one that has big eyes Te Marama, the one that is extra cute Delicious Boi and the one that had a big tummy Chonky Ma.
But over the last few months mothers around Wellington have contacted me, alarmed about Pepe’s behaviour. “EMILY PEPE IS BANGING IAPA AGAIN” was the urgent DM I received that began this quest for information.
The messages kept coming. What mum of seven wants to bang? We all wanted to know. I contacted Wellington Zoo spokesperson Zel Lazarevich to find out what was going on.
Is Pepe banging all the lady capybaras?
Yes a male capybara will mate with multiple females in a herd.
And does the lady capybara who has like 50 brand new babies want to be having sex?
Mating usually stops when a female falls pregnant and she will be receptive up until that point. The male will be aware that she is receptive – i.e. in oestrus – due to the scents that she produces with her scent glands changing, and her behaviour will generally be more amenable in terms of allowing the male to mate with her.
Is she on birth control?
No plans to put the two females on birth control at this stage, but it could be something that we may explore in future. Male birth control measures could also be an option.
What if she gets pregnant again?
She may very well continue to produce young. We will need to manage the female capybaras’ reproduction in accordance with the species plan for capybara in human care, and also will be considering what is appropriate for the habitat that we have available for them.
What if she is tired and he’s just badgering her for sex all of the time?
The female capybaras will generally be receptive to the male, but if for some reason they aren’t interested they will make that pretty clear to the male.
WHAT IF SHE GETS PREGNANT AGAIN??? Is she even getting any sleep?
As a rodent, capybaras are a high-breeding species so it’s normal for them to be pregnant often. In capybara herds the other females help with looking after the young, so that the mother can get the rest she needs.
Is he even being a good dad?
Yes, Pepe is doing everything that a good capybara dad should be doing; leading the herd and watching over the females and their offspring.
Also, I have been told capybaras have sex in the water but that doesn’t seem right? Can you confirm? Is this just spicing up an old marriage or something?
Capybara spend a lot of time in the water as they feel safe and comfortable there. Their behaviour in the water includes mating, yes. They don’t always mate in the water, but it’s certainly common.
I suddenly remembered I’m meant to be writing serious news so I asked:
Do you think anthropomorphism helps or hinders zoos?
It goes both ways. Anthropomorphism can help people engage with animals and helps them make a connection. As long as it’s done in a way that is respectful and doesn’t make fun of the animals it can be a positive thing. On the other hand, anthropomorphism can sometimes distort the perception of an animal’s welfare, as people tend to measure this by human needs and instincts, rather than those of the specific animal. It’s our job to make sure animal welfare always comes first, so we need to make sure we look at this from both a species- and individual animal-specific perspective.
It felt like Zel was saying that our furry pumpkin friends don’t mind banging after having heaps of babies so we all needed to stand down. While pondering this I noticed that the otters were again masturbating. Great. Since those four baboons ‘left’ to go to ‘baboon heaven’, where they’re free to aggressively wank and try to make eye contact with guests all they want, I have had less to explain to my sons about the goings-on at the zoo.
I wondered if the otters constantly jerking off might be due to the weather. I knew I had to ask.
I’m getting a lot of reports about wanking at the zoo (animals not visitors). Is this to do with the weather – like, it’s warm and they’re relaxed? Or is this a year-round thing? The otters seem especially masturbatory at the moment. Are any other animals especially known for this?
We’re not aware of the capybara engaging in masturbation behaviour, but that’s not to say it doesn’t happen and is a perfectly natural behaviour for a number of animals species, throughout the year. For instance, we have an older female kea who does it: it’s not uncommon for female parrots.
Well, there you go. And I bet they’re a lot more chill about it than the baboons were.
Oh god, avert your eyes, the otters are at it again.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.