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Friday, August 19, 2011

You dirty giant rat: World's largest rodent stalks the sewers of California


A giant South American rodent weighing at least 100 pounds is captured on camera at a waste-water treatment facility in California recently before disappearing in the brush.

The animal, identified as a capybara, is the world's largest rodent and feeds on vegetation.

‘If you think a giant guinea pig is cute, then you probably would like it,’ said Todd Tognazzini, of the California Department of Fish and Game.

Sew there you are: The capybara - thought to be an escaped pet - wanders away from the water-treatment plant in Paso Robles

The capybara is believed to be an escaped pet, Tognazzini said.

The animal was spotted at the waste-water treatment facility in Paso Robles, 175miles north-west of Los Angles.

An employee at the plant took photos of the animal as it crawled out of a pond.

The capybara's South American habitat ranges from Panama to northeast Argentina, east of the Andes, according to a description on the website of the San Francisco Zoo.

A capybara can hold its breath under water for up to five minutes, and the animal spends much of its roughly four-year lifespan near the water, he said.

The latest spotting of the capybara comes two years after another sighting of the animal at a ranch around one mile away.

The animal has already achieved celebrity status on the west coast and - following in the footsteps of the escaped Bronx Zoo cobra - a prank Twitter account has even been set up for it.

Its profile description reads: 'Came to the US for vacation and lost my passport. Can someone help a Capybara get home?'

The first tweet it posted, with the user name @CACapybara, read: 'I come from Peru and get famous!'

In California, the capybara cannot be held as a pet without a special permit. But that does not mean that some people do not keep them as illegal pets.

‘The Internet is fraught with examples of people scratching them on the belly and thinking they're cute and making pets of them,’ Tognazzini said.

The California Department of Fish and Game do not view the animal as dangerous.

Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for the organisation, hopes that the local population will leave the creature in peace.

He told the Los Angeles Times: 'You can’t hunt that thing. If we see people out there with nets and traps trying to catch it, we may take a more aggressive stance for the protection of the animal.'

He added: 'We hope that it lives a happy capybara life in Paso Robles.'

Big news: The capybara can grow up to a metre in length and have teeth that grow continuously



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