One of the smallest animals at the park, but with some of the biggest personalities! Aunt Roger, Sybil, and the rest of the gang love to graze and scoff down some veg, sunbathe, and ‘popcorn’ all over the place! You’ll find these charismatic characters at Guinea Pig Village, next to their bigger cousins, the Capybaras!
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Wild guinea pigs are from South America and are found in savannahs, forests and grasslands among mountains.
These tailless rodents have short, stout, cylinder like bodies and have a wide field of vision of 340° and can see predators from a long distance away. However, since they cannot lower their heads that much, they struggle to see what’s below them. Thus, they use heightened senses such as touch and tactile sensation with their whiskers, as well as smell to detect food. Like other rodents, they have continuously growing incisor teeth and so have to gnaw them down when feeding to stop them growing too long. Although they can have 20 different hair colours and there are 13 different phenotypes for hair length and style, the wild guinea pig had short, brown hair which keeps them camouflage from predators.
They are herbivores who eat grass, hay, leaves, vegetables and other vegetation. It is vital they are given sources of Vitamin C because they cannot synthesise or store it. This nutrient is important for growth and repair of body tissue such as bones as well as maintaining a healthy immune system.
They are very social, communicating through vocalisations often and sharing food rather than competing for and storing food for themselves. They sometimes practice alloparental care, meaning the females will look after or adopt baby guinea pigs when they are separated from their birth mothers.
In the wild, a male will mate with all the females in a herd. Then, after a gestation period of 59-72, the sows will give birth to the pups, who can walk almost immediately. Typically, they will give birth to 1-4 pups, but can be up to 17!
When happy, guinea pigs exhibit ‘popcorning’. This is when they run around and quickly turn whilst also jumping and twisting in the air!