WEST BRIGHTON — Cute newborns Cael and Caela are melting hearts on Staten Island.
The Patagonian Cavy pups — the world's fourth-largest rodent, found in the wild in South America — were born at the borough's zoo on June 3. They now weigh about 2 pounds each and spend their time in the nursery, zoo officials said.
"Zoo births, like the recent arrival of these cavies, underscore the spirit of renewal and conservation that is so important to our mission," Kenneth Mitchell, executive director of the zoo, said.
"We are all delighted with the successful birth and look forward to their playful presence for our visitors.”
The rodents are native to Argentina, including large parts of Patagonia, and look like jackrabbits with their long ears. But they run like a deer and can reach speeds up to 35 mph and leap up to 6 feet in the air.
The animals can walk almost immediately after birth and full-grown adults can reach up to 30 inches in length and weigh up to 35 pounds, according to the zoo.
Cavies spend almost half of their day eating green vegetation and fruit and favor communal living. They mate with the same partner for life.
The rodents are considered a near-threatened species due to hunting and habitat alteration.