On this Memorial Day weekend, we humans are thankful for the brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms in America. Unfortunately, in America and worldwide the illegal exotic pet trade robs wild animals of their freedom day in and day out.
Meet Dean, one of the residents at Primarily Primates. Dean is a 15-year-old Patagonian cavy, and he belongs to a family of rodents comprising cavies, guinea pigs and maras native to South America. Dean is one of 10 Patagonian cavies who arrived at PPI by way of a breeder who was trying to profit off a species he thought might become the next “it” exotic pet here in America as Patagonian cavies were once desirable as pets in Europe. Thankfully in this case, Americans realized exotic cavies are not supposed to be pets!
Cavies have robust bodies, short limbs, large heads and eyes and short ears. There are four digits on the forefeet but three on the hind feet, and the soles of the feet are hairless. Their dense, coarse fur ranges from gray to brown on the upperparts and whitish to gray on the underparts.
Cavies inhabit dry areas and habitat types including shrubland, desert, brushland and grassland. They are often drawn to environments that are open and airy. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species' 2008 report, the Patagonian cavy is a "near threatened" animal due to decreasing numbers. They are threatened as a result of a combination of skin hunting and habitat ruination. A lot of the specie’s natural habitat has been eliminated by farming.