The Capybara: Giant Rodents Finding Balance Between Humans and Nature

   In Brazil, there lives a rare animal known all over the world—the South American water rat. They are also known as capybaras, but they are not called porpoises, but rats, which are the largest rodents in the world. Artificially raised water rats can weigh up to 113 kilograms, while wild adult water rats generally weigh more than 50 kilograms. They are veritable “big macs” among rats.
   Although water rats are rats, they are very different from rats: they have no tails, and their bodies are like pigs and horses, and their habits are very similar to hippopotamuses. As a species unique to South America among the world-class rare animals, the story of each big water rat is so shocking…
  Happy time in the rainy season In
   mid-June 2018, the Brazilian Great Plains began to torrentially rain for days, The rainy season came on time, and the rain drove pythons, leopards and other animals into the jungle. However, Phils and his 20 companions stayed put, sometimes raised their heads to chew sugar cane, and sometimes dived into the water. Phils is a 5-year-old male water rat who likes to eat aquatic grass and plant leaves.
   Halle Tina is a female reporter for Venezuelan national television, and she loves these exotic animals. During the long rainy season, Tina decided to follow the Phils family in a raincoat, camera and other equipment.
   Water rat meat is delicious and delicious. As early as the 18th century, when Spanish immigrants established cattle farms on the South American prairie, water rat jerky became a popular delicacy in South America. Because the Roman Catholic Church fasted beef and mutton in the week before Easter, water rat meat became a hot commodity at that time, and eating water rat meat in the week before Easter became a national habit, and this custom continued until the middle of the 20th century before being interfered. Although water rats produce a litter every 8 months, with 4 to 8 animals per litter, and their reproduction speed is very fast, the mass hunting for more than 200 years has put them on the verge of extinction.
   The Venezuelan government, which is rich in water rats, stipulates that only cattle farmers with a permit can kill 30% of the water rats in the dry season. However, the government’s restriction order has caused the value of water rats to skyrocket, and illegal hunting is still repeated.
   Phils is 1.1 meters long, 0.52 meters tall, and weighs 60 kilograms. This weight is already the best among adult male water rats, but it is when Phils is the slenderest. During the most difficult four-month dry season just passed, in order to avoid the pursuit of natural enemies, especially human hunters, they were nocturnal and hid in caves most of the time. To provide adequate nutrition, Phils had to rely on the fat accumulated in his body to maintain his life during this period.
   Water rats live in groups. A group consists of about 20 water rats of the same species. There is no distinction between senior and junior in the family. Although Fiers is the strongest “man”, he has no ability to be the “boss”.
   More than a month passed in a blink of an eye, and Phils’ weight soared to 70 kilograms. All water rats are like him, with the best physical fitness and various skills. Water rats reach sexual maturity at the age of 18 months, when they begin to freely choose a partner for mating, all of which are carried out underwater.
   Perhaps because the intimate scene is “not suitable for children”, Phils and two other strong male water rats went to another big family nearby to choose a partner, and then hid in the deep water area to have sex, leaving a few thin ones behind. Male water rats and water rat mothers care for their young.
   The water rats are able to walk and swim underwater for up to 15 minutes, so each couple does not spend more than 10 minutes at a time to mate. After they were done, they had to swim back quickly, and then took a rest while taking care of the young water rats, replacing the male water rats who had just taken care of the children, and let them find a mate, while the female water rats were “selected” one by one.
   In this way, batch after batch, orderly rotation mating, and then the second round. Water rats have a good memory. Except for female water rats who often change their mates, the order of appearance of males in each water rat colony does not change in any mating season.
  very special defensive weapon
   Phils has obvious male signs. In addition to being much stronger in weight and height than females, his body hair is also much thicker and darker than that of female water rats. There is a protruding naked sarcoma on his snout, which contains hypertrophic fat glands body. This prominent fat gland is not only a sign of gender distinction, but also a mysterious weapon used by male water rats to divide territories. It can secrete a colorless liquid with a special smell.
   Although in every South American water rat family, the adult males have no distinction of status, but when dealing with other water rat colonies, each family has a leader, and Fiers is undoubtedly the “patriarch” of his family.
   Whenever the dry season ends and the natural enemies flee one after another, the water rat becomes the local “ruler”, and the families and tribes that did not interfere with each other begin to compete for territory at this time. The important task of dividing the “dominant area” is taken by the adult male. The “mysterious weapon” is the unique protruding fat gland of the male snout. At this time, it begins to secrete a colorless and transparent liquid with a special smell.
   After a month of recuperation, Phils’ fat glands also began to secrete a transparent liquid, which smelled like perfume. Phils applied the “perfume” to branches and grass stems to mark the territory, and most water rats would stop moving after smelling the “perfume”. Trying to avoid fighting and killing between ethnic groups is also an important reason why the South American water rat can reproduce.
   After many research experiments, scientists found that the “perfume” secreted by each male water rat is different, that is to say, the chemical composition of the mysterious liquid secreted by no two South American water rats is the same. Water rats have an extremely sensitive sense of smell, and they can easily distinguish the “perfume” that humans cannot distinguish with their noses.
   However, one evening, the careful Harley Tina found that Phils, whose lips had just touched sugarcane leaves, It stopped suddenly, stood up, carefully touched the sugarcane stalks with its thick nostrils, and then made a dull “squeak” sound, it smelled a strange smell. The other water rats who were eating also stopped, and then the adults suddenly jumped into the water and dived towards a family of water rats nearby.
   The war is carried out in the water. Members of the two families chase and bite one by one. They use their four front teeth to attack respectively. The river water is muddy. The female water rats can distinguish between friends and foes, and the female water rats fled to the shore with their young water rats. The little water rats clung to their mother’s side, digging their broad toes into the soil, and screaming in terror…
   Such wars are generally based on lessons, so few water rats die. This was the first time Phils was provoked. He obviously wanted to make an example, and in anger he pushed a 5-month-old water rat from the bank into the water. Water rats are generally able to dive and swim after they are 1 year old. A few minutes later, this little water rat, which could not swim, suffocated to death. This is the price paid for attacking other people’s territories.
   With the death of the little guy, the leader of the other party left the territory of Fels with his family in horror, and the war came to an end. In the evening, Phils took his family members to a piece of grass that was not submerged and squatted. From the water to the ground, its mighty wind disappeared all of a sudden.
   However, the peculiar “perfume” smell of water rats has brought them all kinds of disasters.
   One day, Harley Tina used a telescope to see four predators suddenly appearing in Phils’ territory, and they almost fell from the sky. Water rats have never been afraid of humans, but they haven’t reacted yet. A 3-year-old male water rat was captured alive by a hunter. When Phils spotted the hunter, he jumped into the water while making a dull “squeak” sound as a warning. , other water rats also jumped into the water one after another, and then quickly swam towards the deep water area, making “effective” struggles and resistance.
   The captured water rat is covered with reddish-brown smooth fur, which looks chubby and cute. Water rats over the age of 5 have too much fat, and the fat contains the smell of all kinds of foul-smelling plants it eats, and it needs to be steamed several times to get rid of the smell. The 3-year-old water rat has the most lean meat, tastes similar to pork and is more delicious than pork, and has the smoothest and thickest fur, which can be sold at the best price.
   When Harley Tina put down the binoculars and rushed to the scene, the hunters had already taken the water rats they had caught, humming a little song and leaving in satisfaction.
   Many people spare no expense to buy male water rats just because they are curious about the unique “perfume” secreted by the fat glands in their nose and snout and the delicious rat meat. Although Venezuela has more than 80% of the water rat population, thousands of them can be killed every year, but this number cannot even meet the demand of the local market.
   Now, water rats are decreasing sharply at a rate of nearly 10,000 per year. If this rate continues, within 10 years, this group of unique species will completely disappear from the world.
   Harley Tina was extremely indignant when she witnessed the scene of water rats being caught. Unfortunately, she was too petite to chase those illegal hunters, so she appealed loudly on the TV show: “It’s hard to imagine that when the breeding of water rats happens one day If the South American water rat, which is so powerful and always friendly to people, is doomed to extinction, what other animal on earth will accompany human beings?” Returning to nature after
   In the spring of 2019, the long rainy season passed, followed by the dry season. The rain was quickly dried up by the scorching sun, and the rivers gradually returned to dry land and swamps. The moment Fels most feared but had to face came: the water plants and leaves looked dry and unpalatable, and the sun dried his fur. It had to be a dull gray, and the skin was gradually cracked.
   However, this is not what water rats are most afraid of. The frightening thing is that leopards, boa constrictors and wild dogs often come running from the covered jungle to look for food. Illegal hunters also know that this is the best time to catch water rats. season. Phils and his family members had to hide in caves and bushes during the day, and only dared to sneak out in search of food late at night.
   When water rat families have to live on the ground, children and mothers are protected. Because water rats have flat and webbed feet, it is not easy to dig holes in the ground. The holes dug with great difficulty are often left for petite water rats and females, while the male water rats who do not live in the ground often can only squat in the weeds next to the hole.
   One evening, a 4-year-old male water mouse was digging a hole. A wild dog that was a head shorter than him and weighed less than half of it suddenly appeared not far away. The soles of the fleshy feet have no bouncing power, so it can only move its body in small steps. It simply stops and squats down slowly, waiting for the arrangement of fate. But the wild dog was not polite, and took a bite at the fat buttocks of the water rat, followed by the back and abdomen…
   Phils and his family members watched the wild dog excitedly enjoying the delicious meal. The fat buttocks block a hole, and there are their wives and children or parents.
   Perhaps it had known that the water rat had become a coward when it came to the ground. The wild dog did not gather its companions, but concentrated on eating the delicious food by itself. At this time, Phils was very close to the wild dog, and it was finally irritated. Walking over slowly, squatting down, biting one of the wild dog’s hind legs suddenly, with a “click”, the wild dog’s slender hind leg broke at the joint! The injured wild dog howled for a while, and then fled.
   This was almost the first time Phils attacked the enemy, and such a situation rarely happened among the water rats. South American water rats are authentic vegetarians. Watery plants, fruits and leaves are their favorite food, and they have no interest in bloody meat.
   After driving away the natural enemies, Phils painted the unique “perfume” from the fat glands on the remaining bones of his companions to declare his territory sacred and inviolable, and subconsciously warned the enemies: This is my Phils’s. Brothers of the same race, don’t dare to harass other aliens!
   However, it was in vain for Phils to spread the “perfume”. A few days later, an anaconda ate a female water rat that was about to give birth, and those little water rats that were about to be born were gently sucked in the anaconda’s belly. squirmed.
   Facing such a powerful enemy, Phils shed tears of sorrow, and squatted there motionless. It did not make any resistance. Fortunately, after the anaconda had a full meal, it did not hurt other water rats.
   In the following month, members of Firth’s tribe were attacked by wild dogs and pythons, and several water rats were killed soon. Although they are also attacked by crocodiles and pythons during the rainy season, the number of water rats killed is almost negligible due to the continuous birth of young water rats. In the dry season, the number of each water rat colony must be reduced by at least half.
   Smart and fearless water rats often choose to “seek refuge” with nearby human residents at this time.
   In early April, Firth led his family members to migrate to the high grasslands. It turned out that there was a special breeding place for water rats on the grassland 5 kilometers away. At this time, there were only 8 members of the Fels tribe. They smelled the smell of humans and planned to seek “protection”.
   In order to protect the water rats, the local government has set up large-scale water rat farms in some villages, but usually the water rats are “captured” manually to the farms. Occasionally, groups of water rats will be integrated into the cattle and sheep of the herdsmen, and come to live with them. Eat aquatic plants not far away. Water rats mixed with domestic animals often do not leave again, which will also change their nocturnal habits, and live in harmony with the cattle and sheep according to their “work and rest” time. However, wild water rats rarely approach humans unless their tribe is dying and needs to seek protection.
   Firth’s migration was in danger, and a team of hunters selected and captured three more mature male water rats. When the hunters were about to take away the water rats, the staff of the farm and Harley Tina rushed over after hearing the news and immediately intercepted the hunters. In this way, the clever Phils “turned to” human beings and finally got protection.
   In fact, water rats that have successfully “followed” can stay in artificial pools with suitable water temperature and clean water all year round, and eat fresh fruits and vegetables to make them fatter and stronger. They no longer need to painstakingly apply “perfume” on a certain Mark your own “territory” everywhere. However, as the water rats that have lived in the rivers and swamps of South America for thousands of years, if they are not regulated by the laws of competition in nature, can their unique charm be perfectly displayed?
   Harley Tina has been “following” Phils to the breeding farm. She found that since the day he came to the breeding farm, Phils has always squatted quietly in the pool without moving. In the air, lazily eating duckweed on the water. Unlike other water rats, it loves to eat apples and vegetables, and rarely goes ashore, let alone dives into the bottom of the water to swim and play.
   It turns out that the highly fertile water rats have become “weird and paranoid” in the artificial breeding environment, especially in the mating season, any small sound will cause them to lose their “sexual interest” and refuse to watch them. mating. In addition, the meat of artificially raised water rats is far inferior to that of wild ones, and the unique “perfume” secreted by the fat glands of male water rats also disappears inexplicably after being artificially raised.
   In early July, when the rainy season began in Brazil’s great plains, Phils and seven other water rats were returned to the swamp. They rolled down happily. After rolling in the muddy swamp, Phils suddenly jumped into the water, and then quickly dived to the bottom of the water. After 3 minutes, he exposed his head and squatted in the water again. At this moment, Phils began to spray his own unique “perfume” to his heart’s content, this is their real home.