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  • Melinda Murphy

Japanese zoo's creative solution

The restaurant at Izu Shabonten Zooin Shizuoka, Japan is crowded! But those seats aren’t occupied by people. They’re occupied by stuffed animal Capybaras that have been strategically placed throughout the restaurant to maintain appropriate social distancing.

So have a seat with these adorable stuffed Capybaras, who will keep you company as you enjoy your lunch, comfortably distanced from others. The Izu Zoo (we’ve been dying to write that) was closed as the pandemic swept Japan but recently re-opened on May 16. Several measures were put in place to unsure visitor safety, such as requiring masks, making hand sanitizer available, and of course using stuffed animal Capybaras to ensure enclosed spaces are never too full.

But why Capybara’s, you might wonder? The Izu Shabonten Zoo is actually a popular Capybara destination. It’s not only home to numerous Capybara-themed events but it’s also credited with inventing the Capybara hot bath.

According to their website, in 1982 a zookeeper was cleaning one of their pens with warm water when they noticed that a group of Capybaras had gathered in a puddle of warm water and were soaking their feet and bums. These large yet gentle rodents loved water but the winter chill was too much for them, so the the zoo keeper had the idea of filling a pool with hot water. Sure enough, the Capybara’s climbed in and seemed overwhelmed with joy. Ever since, the zoo has maintained an annual winter tradition of hot baths for their Capybaras.

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