I grew up as a Country Kid on a farm/ranch 22 miles from the nearest town--one with a population of under 500. It has always surprised me how much I enjoy living in an urban environment. We live a little over a mile from the Denver Zoo and the Nature & Science Museum (both in City Park) and about 3 miles from the Botanic Gardens and the Bluff Lake Nature Center. We are also 15 minutes from the Symphony, theaters, art museums, galleries and baseball. Needless to say I'm quite comfy with my city life. It has become my habit to just pop in and see what's new at these places as I go about in the city.
Yesterday I had to go past the zoo while running errands so I stopped by--with my camera of course. I went into Tropical Discovery, a simulated rain forest housing many of the typical animals of five tropical habitats. One exhibit houses two very different species: the Black Howler Monkey and the Capybara. The female black howler, because of sexual dimorphism, is always a beigey-blond color while the male is black. In their natural habitat they usually spend their entire lives in trees while capybaras-- the world's largest rodents-- live on the ground below them, never interacting.
One of my first tasks as a Zoo Docent was to monitor the two sister capybaras because after several years of living together, one of them--the submissive one--had decided to change the dominance/submissive roles and had drawn blood in aggressive attacks. I was to observe and report to keepers by radio if I noticed any threat of violent behavior. Eventually, the dominance relationship remained as it had always been. During my many hours of observation these over-grown guinea pigs captured my attention with their quiet lumbering style--in exact contrast to the raucous loud calls of their howler roommates.
It was often observed at the zoo that habitat change, and living in captivity, can create unexpected inter-species interactions. It seems that one day Rosie the howler decided to groom 228. (Another zoo story: the capy keeper doesn't believe in giving wild animals "pet" names, so the sisters are referred to as 228 and 229.) Four years later and the behavior continues. They often curl up and sleep together while Rosie's mate Avery sleeps on the tree trunk and 229 sleeps alone behind a rock in their habitat home.