Guinea pigs helping to teach culture and nature at Smithsonian National Zoo

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Guinea pigs are among the most popular pets in the U.S., but their habits and needs may still seem a little mysterious compared to cats and dogs.

Thanks to a guinea pig village, however, visitors to the Amazonia exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo can learn about the natural history and cultural significance of these small, furry creatures.

As visitors exit the canopy of the Amazonia exhibit, they will see a guinea pig village, home to seven female guinea pigs. The village is styled after guinea pig houses in Peru and includes little houses, ramps and bridges for climbing and soft bedding. The guinea pigs spend their days exploring their village and socializing.

Visitors will likely to get to see the guinea pigs in action as they don’t sleep very much. According to a press release, guinea pigs rarely sit still for more than 10 minutes at a time and spend less than 4% of their day sleeping. The time they spend sleeping is more like short naps and they usually sleep for less than 6 minutes at a time.

Also according to the press release, guinea pigs are extremely social animals and require a significant amount of social interaction every day from their human caretakers or other guinea pigs. Visitors may hear the guinea pigs vocalizing to each other or see them simply spending time near each other.

The seven guinea pigs moved to the National Zoo from the Nashville Zoo. They are distinguishable from each other by their different hairstyles and coloration that corresponds with their different breeds.

Though they are common pets in North America, in the Andes they kept as livestock and are also celebrated during certain festivals and religious events. At some festivals they are dressed in elaborate costumes or used to honor local saints.

For more about the guinea pigs living in the village  at the National Zoo, click here:

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