Homecoming gets wild in more ways than one: students witness capybaras birth during dance

October 25th, 2012

Needless to say, the 2012 John Carroll University Homecoming dance got a little “wild.” In addition to its venue at the Rainforest in the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and a few hundred rambunctious college students, this year’s dance provided attendees with a glimpse into the uncertainty that accompanies the world’s natural environments. Shortly after the first busloads of eager students were released into the Rainforest’s domain, a pregnant female capybara unexpectedly gave birth to triplets.

“We don’t have any control over when they decide to give birth,” Zoo spokeswoman Sue Allen told The Plain Dealer. “This one decided to do it in the middle of Homecoming, in full view of  the partygoers.”

This event, in plain sight of the partygoers surveying the numerous exhibits on display, promptly initiated a night complete with its own set of untamed behaviors.

The habitat where the birth took place drew an especially large crowd because of the capybaras’ fellow inhabitant, the orangutans. However, the only animal being discussed while exiting that exhibit was not the primate, but rather an animal that most people did not even know exist – capybaras.

Capybaras do, in fact, exist and have been designated as the world’s largest rodent, weighing in at an average of 70 to 150 pounds. Physically, the animal has a characteristic barrel-shaped body, short head and brown-reddish fur. These herbivores, whose diet consists mostly of grasses and aquatic plants, frequently plunge into nearby waters and are considered semiaquatic creatures. Their hydrophilic behaviors were exemplified that night in the Rainforest when the infant capybaras began swimming through the aquatic area of the habitat only a few minutes after exiting their mother’s womb.

Rainforest curators believed it best to close the exhibit for the rest of the night, allowing the mother capybara and her offspring to rest. The closing of the exhibit left some students disappointed upon arrival; but there were more than enough exotic habitats on display to keep any wandering explorer’s eyes occupied. The unforeseen birth did not dent the students’ Homecoming expectations that had been building with anticipation in the weeks preceding the night. Some of the attendants welcomed this unexpected occurrence, claiming it added yet another exciting experience that is sure to be discussed when recalling a night filled with boisterous music, a wild dance floor and even a chocolate fountain. Senior J.P. Bolton, who witnessed the births of the three capybaras, said, “It caught me off guard, but made the night that much more memorable.”

Sophomore Brooke Squires had a similar experience. “It was something I didn’t expect to see at Homecoming but it was a beautiful thing too,” she said.

Most would have thought that the capybaras’ story ended when the last of the buses left the Zoo’s grounds heading back to JCU. However, nearly three weeks later, the connection between JCU and the capybaras remains present. In the days following the dance, when Rainforest curators were confronted with the challenge of naming the capybaras, they looked towards the JCU community for inspiration. Because of the birth’s connection to JCU, they respectfully named one John and another, Carroll.

Unfortunately, due to complications following the birth, the third capybara did not survive – a common incident that is involved in many capybara births. Nevertheless, there is a new family of capybaras now thriving in the Rainforest. John and Carroll are already growing and under constant watch of their parents, Budha and Shoya.