The Patagonian cavy, also known as a "mara", is a rodent. They are closely related to the capybara and are native to South America.
"Joey", a female, became a resident of Black Pine after she was found wandering into
someone's back yard, apparently an escaped or abandoned pet. She is one of several cavies that have lived at the sanctuary over the past few years. Cavies have become popular in the exotic pet trade, despite the fact they require a specialized diet and can be difficult to house. Cavies can live up to 14 years in captivity.
Cavies are very fast. They can run up to 35 miles per hour to escape predators, can jump up to six feet high, and can dig and burrow. In the wild they often live in groups of as many as 70 animals, and will mate for life. Due to the introduction of European wild hares into their habitat, competition for food, cavy populations are on the decline.
Cavies are most active during the day, and are still alert at night - a defensive mechanism developed because of the many predators who prey upon them. When approached by her keepers, Joey will urinate on them, also a defense mechanism. Their long ears not only help them hear well, they also serve to increase their body surface to help cool them in hot weather.
Photos courtesy of Clay Myers.
InfoBox - Patagonian Cavy
Status: Good, but declining.
Diet in wild: grasses and other plants.
Life span in wild: 10 years.
Weight: 30-40 pounds. up to 18 inches tall.
Native habitat: Arid grasslands of Argentina, South America.