With four toes on their front feet and three on each of their back feet these furry mammals have continuously growing nails and a short stubby tail.
They are native to Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, Brazil, Bolivia, north Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay where they live in a range of habitats including grasslands, forests and savannas.
Listed as being of Least Concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, it is thought that the number of these animals in the wild is currently stable.
Brazilian guinea pigs are the wild relatives of domestic guinea pigs, living in small groups of one male, two or more females and any young the group produces.
Mainly diurnal (meaning they are active in the daytime) these mammals forage in groups during the morning and evening, taking shelter amongst shrubs for the rest of the day.
They don’t dig burrows but do create tunnel networks just under the surface of the ground and they communicate with each other through sound.
Brazilian guinea pigs, sometimes known as Brazilian cavies, are herbivores, grazing on grasses, leaves and other plant matter.
Males often breed with more than one female and pups will be brought up within the family group. Females give birth to between one and five pups in each litter.
Amy Denny, Primates and Small Mammals Animal Team Leader, said: “The primates and small mammals team are excited, not only to have the Brazilian guinea pigs as a new species in our collection but also to be housing them with our golden headed lion tamarins and pygmy marmosets overhead. This will be a dynamic and engaging experience for guests and hopefully capture people’s interests about South American mammals.
“The team have been working hard to create an immersive and naturalistic habitat to demonstrate how the domestic guinea pig’s relatives would live in the wild, and provide lots of opportunities for the species to demonstrate their natural behaviour. They’re still a little nervous while they settle in, so please make sure you’re nice and quiet in order to catch a glimpse of them.”
Guests can visit Marwell’s Brazilian guinea pigs in the Life Among the Trees area of the zoo. The primates team have recently worked to redevelop a previously off-show area and install an additional viewing window to allow guests to see their inside habitat.
During August we’re offering a fantastic “Five for £75” family ticket offer, which enables up to five people to visit the zoo – that’s just £15 per person!
For more information about our animals, conservation projects, news, terms and conditions and to buy tickets visit www.marwell.org.uk