Buying a capybara is not an easy process. There are very few breeders with published information online. One of the best sources is ExoticAnimalsForSale.net.
The site allows for searches by animal name, and will return a number of listings at any given time for capybaras, but there are few organized breeding programs represented.
A third breeder in Arkansas is now retired, but a note on the website indicates she can refer interested parties to other capybara breeders. Her information is:
Mary Lee Stropes
Shad EE Shack Farm
Booneville, Arkansas 72927
I was not able to locate any capybara breeders in Europe, although the animals are now found around the world. In July 2013 a runaway from an animal shelter in England was spotted trotting along the bank of the River Thames at the Henley Regatta. The animal remained on the loose for a month before it was recaptured.
Please note that all web addresses and contact information were accurate at the time of this writing, but like all things online, I cannot guarantee how long this material will be valid.
Kapi’yva Exotics at www.kapiyvaexotics.com is a privately run zoological facility near Houston, TX specializing in “the propagation of rare and endangered species and supply[ing] animals to zoos, educators and other licensed entities.”
They are accredited by the Zoological Association of America (ZAA), and hold a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department zoological permit and a United States Department of Agriculture class A breeder’s license.
The founder of the operation, Justin Dildy, is a member of the Zoological Association of America and the Feline Conservation Federation. Kapi’yva preference is for interested parties to send inquiries via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tri-Lake Exotics is also a USDA certified breeder. They are located in Northeast Texas on Farm Road 21 between Mount Pleasant and Mount Vernon. The animals are bottled raised, and socialized daily as well as receiving 24-hour care from an in-house veterinarian.
Contact: Dr. Cathy Cranmore
The published shipping policy at Kapi’yva states that “local pickup is preferred” and indicates they “may be willing to deliver or meet you half way depending on your location.”
They do ship from both Hobby and Intercontinental Airports in Houston, TX but specify that the flights must be arranged through the Delta Pet First fare program or via United Airline’s “Pet Safe.”
Tri-Lake’s shipping policy does not specifically mention capybaras, but indicates the same preference for personal pickup. The policy only discusses airline shipping for Wallaroo and Kangaroos, but offers the potential of a $3 per mile delivery fee.
In a January 2014 post for the blog “Dobbye the Capybara” www.petcapybara.com/ a capybara owner discusses the true costs, financial and otherwise of acquiring his pet.
“How Much Is That Capybara in the Window?” is a sobering description of just how difficult it can be to both acquire and to move an exotic animal.
The author writes, “Most airlines will not allow rodents in the cabin, so even though your three week old capybara is the size of a guinea pig, it is required to travel in the hold of the plane, down there with the big dogs.”
That statement alone makes hardcore animal lovers cringe, but the flight was in cold weather and the poor animal sat with the other “baggage” for an extended period of time until his owner could retrieve him.
Two weeks later, the little capybara almost died of pneumonia. The author observes that if he had it all to do over again, he’d fly out to pick up the capybara, rent a car, and drive home. “At that age, they are tiny, quiet, and manageable, and no motel would ever guess you had a pet with you.”
I am personally not a fan of shipping animals. It may be inescapable with a capybara due to their scarcity, and this is an aspect of the “risk factor” of buying one of these animals that you have to consider.
When you contract to purchase a live animal and have it sent to you, the chances of a tragedy occurring in transit are fairly high. Can you live with the guilt if something happens?
Identifying a Healthy Capybara
When you are adopting an unusual animal like a capybara, you need to find out as much as you possibly can about the facility where the animal was born and is being raised in order to judge the condition in which you are likely to receive your new pet.
You want to consider factors like:
Population density and socialization.
Has the capybara had plenty of interaction with other capybaras and with humans? Is this a level of socialization that will make it more or less dependent on you?
For instance, if you are buying a capybara that has lived as a single pet dependent on one caregiver, can you give the same level of care?
If you are buying an animal that is used to being part of a group, can you provide that degree of sociability, preferably with other capybaras?
Remember, you are responsible for the animal’s physical and emotional wellbeing. With this species, the emotional component is unusually strong.
Spaciousness and appropriateness of the habitat.
Has the animal had lots of room to play and explore with free access to sources of clean water for both consumption and as an environmental feature?
Smaller animals can be housed successfully indoors and will often be comfortable using a pan to do their “business,” but since they will grow too large to be inside exclusively, they should be used to time outside.
Over and above those considerations, capybaras must get adequate time in the sun to be healthy.
Overall condition of the facility.
Is the operation clean and well run? What, if any, certifications does it carry? Are the animals regularly attended by a veterinarian?
Typically breeders are quite happy to show you around their operation and to discuss their animals with you. If a breeder is reluctant to do so, this could be a red flag that something may not be quite right.
Physically Inspecting the Animal
Due to the distance likely involved in your acquisition, you may not be able to physically examine the capybara in advance of your visit to actually retrieve your pet.
Certainly you should have seen photographs, and potentially even observed the capybara on video before moving forward with a deal.
Once on site or when you take possession of the animal, check for potential physical problems and immediately arrange for the capybara to be evaluated by a qualified exotic animal veterinarian.
Look closely at the eyes. They should be bright and clear. Some discharge is normal, since capybaras are sensitive to dust and allergens, but there should be no excessive or discolored fluid or mucus.
Gently look inside the ear. If there is a yeasty, foul smell with visible debris and wax, ear mites may be present. These parasites are a common nuisance in many animal species.
Ear mites are easily treatable, but should not be ignored as they create itching and discomfort for the animal.
You’ll need to obtain a topical medication from your veterinarian to eliminate the infestation and the debris in the ear may need to be cleaned out.
There should be only minimal discharge from the nose, again as a reaction to dust and allergens only, and it should not be discolored or excessive, which could indicate the presence of a respiratory infection.
Ask the breeder to help you examine the capybara’s teeth. They should be straight and well aligned with no sign of breakage or overgrowth that might prevent the animal from eating properly.
A single broken tooth is typically not a problem, although it may need to be clipped and evened out by a veterinarian. Excessive broken teeth may indicate scurvy, which is caused by Vitamin C deficiency.
Listen to the capybara’s breathing, which should be quiet, with no clicking sounds indicated respiratory infection. The presence of nasal discharge and irregular breathing is a serious warning sign that should not be ignored.
The capybara should be in good physical condition in a general sense. It should have no visible swellings or lumps, and any scratches or wounds should be tiny and clearly the result of rough housing.
At a young age, a capybara should not show signs of dominance fighting that may include bites and more serious wounds.
If such wounds are present on an older animal, find out what happened. Try to determine if the capybara in question has exhibited a tendency to be aggressive.
Young capybaras are quiet and easily managed, but should still be bright, curious, and energetic when at play, especially with others of their own kind.
Capybaras prefer to be the instigators of affection, but you should see signs of regular interaction when the capybara responds to the breeder or other animals in the vicinity.
As I mentioned in Chapter 1, the price of a capybara itself is roughly on par with that of a large pedigreed dog, typically around $600 / £360.
The ancillary costs of shipping the animal, however, could easily climb into thousands of dollars, and then there is the matter of constructing an appropriate habitat including water features.
In my opinion, it is absolutely impossible to arrive at an accurate estimate of costs since every situation will be completely unique.
I will say, however, that capybaras are not inexpensive pets. If you cannot afford the cost of creating the kind of environment these animals require, seriously reconsider the idea of acquiring one.