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Jessi introduces you to Chili Pepper who is a 3 year old male Patagonian Cavy (aka Mara). He's got a sweet and spicy personality and is an amazing ambassador for his species. Enjoy!

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Welcome to Animal Wonders, where reality is a dream and dream's a reality! Kind of. Oh that sounded better in my head. Ok! 

The largest rodent weighs 140 pounds, has webbed feet, and spends most of its time in the swamp. The smallest rodent in the world is the Pygmy Jerboa, and it weighs in at under 4 grams and under 2 inches tall. If you want to see the largest or the smallest rodent today, sorry; you're out of luck, we don't have any of them. Either of them. But we do have a rodent that bounds like an antelope, runs thirty miles an hour, and jumps six feet in the air! 

[Intro]

Let's meet Chili Pepper! Chili Pepper came to us from a zoo in Nevada who had a group of cavies, and when they had babies, they had immediately taken them inside, to safety, because the large birds of prey who are always around looking for small babies to make lunch. 

Pepper was donated to Animal Wonders because the zoo could not keep him, and our dedication to providing a lifelong home and educating about this amazing species was a good fit for this guy. He was just this adorable, tiny little dude when we first met him. He fit in one hand, and he happened to come in at the same time as our Red Fox Serafina when she was a kit.

We housed the two together for the first bit of their lives. Sera loved to play foxy games and hide behind a corner and pounce on him whenever he walked by. He was not amused. After a few surprise attacks, Pepper, who didn't have a name yet, was over it. He turned around and rushed Serafina, giving her a huge headbutt. That's how he got his name, because most Patagonian cavies are kind of shy and timid and skittish, but Chili Pepper? He had a spicy personality. 

Patagonian cavy, or Patagonian mara, if you prefer, is a really fascinating species, and I was introduced to the species when I was in "zoo school." They called it a cavy. Now David Attenborough, he later came out with Life of Mammals and he used the word mara to describe them, which has really caught on lately. You can call them a cavy, you can call them a mara, you can even call them cavies. David Attenborough, I love you, but I have this thing where I have to call it by whatever I learn it as first, so I say cavy. If you have a compelling, persuasive argument, go ahead and try and persuade me in the comments below.

Cavies are the third or fourth largest rodent, depending on your criteria. I can give some general specs of a list of the largest rodents in different animals in different groups, but this stuff gets pretty detailed, and it's often actually up to your own interpretation.

The largest, longest, and tallest rodent is the capybara, weighing up to 145 pounds, and measuring up to four and a half feet long. These guys are huge. The second largest is the beaver. These guys can get over 100 pounds and up to 35 inches long. The third longest and tallest rodent in the world is the Patagonian cavy. These guys get to 24 inches tall and 30 inches long. They can weigh up to 35 pounds. But the third heaviest rodent is several porcupine species which can get up to 60 pounds. 

Sometimes I get a little bit weary of our insistence of putting everything into precise, neat little boxes, but sometimes, sometimes those details can be pretty awesome. Other times, it can be really annoying because it takes really long to explain and there's all these different factors here and there, and what I really want to say this animal is really big! So I would like to share those facts with you, but I want it to be awesome, but not annoying, so maybe I can be... like, awesomely annoying? So whatever criteria you want to go by, you can choose. 

Let's go for a walk!

Chili Pepper is constantly observing the environment around him. Take a look at all the adaptations on his body. Those large ears, eyes, nose, long legs - all of those things are very adept at evading a predator that might want to try and eat him. All of those sensory adaptations are going to help him detect the smallest changes.

Those eyes are positioned on the sides of his head so they can see in all directions with no blind spot behind him, so anything that might be sneaking up behind him, he's going to detect it. If he's spooked, he's going to take those long back legs, he's going to dig his nails in, and he's going to propel forward. In his native habitat of Patagonia, Argentina, he would live in lowland forests, grasslands, and desert-like areas where it's very barren. He can run up to speeds of 30 miles an hour.

Now if he's severely threatened and that predator is going to try and jump on him, pounce on him, he can jump six feet in the air! Now he doesn't pounce all dainty like a horse or a cat, all pretty. He's going to spring in the air and he's going to go boing! Straight up into the air and then he's going to come falling down and sometimes he'll land on his back, or his sides. Again, those back claws are going to really come in handy for him to get his traction again and run back to his burrow to safety. 

Chili Pepper does live mostly inside due to Montana's severe weathers, but he does live with best friend Patches, and these guys get a diet of guinea pig pellets, fresh fruits and vegetables, hay, and sometimes grasses that they enjoy.

We are currently working on building these guys a larger enclosure. It's going to be filled with dirt, so they'll have like three feet of dirt to dig in, which is going to be part of their natural desires - to want to dig and burrow and roll in it, but they're also going to have shelter from the weather, so that's really exciting. We call it the dirt swimming pool, and we're really excited to be working on that. 

Patches and Chili Pepper get along great. The two species are very closely related. Both of the cavy family, which has four toes on the front and three toes on the back. Despite his spicy personality, Chili Pepper really is a sweetheart. He enjoys making friends with pretty much anything that moves. [laughs] He makes friends with cats and dogs and guinea pigs and bettongs and birds and rats.

If you want to keep learning awesome animal stuff, subscribe to Animal Wonders Montana and go on adventures with us every week!

[Outro]

These guys can run 30 miles an hour and six feet - whoo!

If they're severely spooked, they're going to take off running, but say if it's a predator trying to pounce on them. They have one last trick up their sleeve. They can jump six feet in the air, so when that predator comes -