- Title: JAPAN: Squirrel monkeys befriend giant rodents at a zoo in Japan
- Date: 20th May 2007
- Summary: WIDE OF ENCLOSURE
- Embargoed: 4th June 2007 13:00
- Location: Japan
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Environment / Natural World
- Reuters ID: LVA9NAQ5AQVG8O03NXJS6DSDMWLS
- Story Text: Squirrel monkeys enjoy riding, grooming and even kissing capybara -- the world's largest living rodent at a zoo in Japan. Capybara, the world's largest living rodent and squirrel monkeys are getting along well at a zoo in Japan's Saitama prefecture, around 60 kilometres from Tokyo.
Though both come from South America and are not carnivores, it is unlikely for them to live together in the wild. The capybara lives by the riverside, squirrel monkeys live in the tropical forests.
According to a zoo official, when the zoo started to let this odd couple share an area in 2000, the capybaras were obviously bewildered with their roommates and refused to have any contact with them for years.
But after years of rejection, the capybaras finally opened their hearts to the monkeys recently.
"I don't think it necessarily means that Capybara and Squirrel monkeys are compatible in general. This may simply suggest that all four Capybaras living here happen to be too gentle and meek to offend the monkeys," said Kenji Narukawa, zoo keeper in charge of capybara and squirrel monkey at Tobu zoo park.
But co-habitation between different creatures is not always that simple - a spider monkey was mauled to death by a capybara in front of the public at a zoo in Hokkaido, Northern Japan last year soon after they started living together. The tragedy happened when the monkey snatched grass from the capybara who had been irritated by its repeated tricks.
Since the odd couple has become the centre of media attention, hundreds of visitors gather around the enclosure everyday to view them.
"They seem to be comfortable with one another and I wouldn't be surprised if they lived together in the wild," said 42-year-old Noboru Ishihara, one of the visitors attracted by animals.
"They are so cute. I am very happy to see such a rare couple," added 35-year-old Motoyasu Miyasaka.
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