In Memoriam: Buella Belle Capybara

Owner’s blog:


Beulla Belle

This is a very hard post for me to write. A beautiful young capybara named Buella Belle died this week. The photo of her above was taken on the day she died. You can see how gorgeous she was and how healthy she looked. And you might even notice the resemblance to Garibaldi Rous, especially around the large ears. They were half-siblings, having the same father but different mothers.

Buella Belle being groomed by her good friend Banjo

This is the email that I received from Buella’s owner

I am so devastated my 4 month old capybara just died. She was in the grass eating dandylions yesterday then I saw her eating azelias. I brought her in and latter she started to salivate and cry and moan. I called Justin and Texas A&M for help. I gave her some milk replacement, charcoal caps, and water. She slept with me and had a big poop. She seemed better this morning. She ate a little tonight and drank some milk then she started to cry and I thought she was hipcuping. When I went to see if she was ok she jumped into my arms and went into spasms. I was getting into the car to take her a triage clinic when she died. I can’t believe it she was such a sweet girl and we all loved her so much. I know about your ROUS Fondation and would like to have a necropsy preformed at Texas A&M to know exactly what killed her. Please forward the information for doing this. Thank you.

I am very glad Buella’s owner learned about the ROUS Foundation. Even though it looks very much like Buella died from azalea poisoning, we can’t know for sure without clinical evidence.

I asked her owner to tell me a little more about what happened and this is the response she sent:

This is the picture I took yesterday of Beulla Belle, Mothers Day, when I thought she was on the mend. She was four months old. She wanted to go out the day before to hunt for grass in the walled-in garden where our two ducks were sitting under a Japanese Maple tree enjoying the sunshine. She was usually following her herd of three small dogs around trying to copy everything they did but they had already been out and back while she slept in that morning. I knew she was safe in the garden but I was wrong. A killer dressed in bright pink petals was waiting, a small azalea bush. I can not be sure that the azalea killed her but she had all the signs of plant toxicity by azalea that my frantic web searching uncovered. I followed the instructions and put charcoal caplets in her mouth and tried to force her to drink water through a baby bottle. I called vets and poison control help lines. There was no professional help. It was late at night by then and the few live people I spoke with in my rural area had never heard of a Capybara and didn’t seem to want to. She seemed to be doing better the next morning and Justin from Kapi’yva Exotics who helped me through the night via emails and I thought she would have a stomach ache for a few days and would fully recover but she died last night after leaping into my arms. She is being sent today to Texas A&M for a necropsy through the ROUS Foundation. She will be dearly missed.


Buella Belle with Bosco, a tamarin


As you can see, Buella Belle’s owner is no stranger to exotic pets.

Like most of us, Buella’s owner did not know azaleas were toxic until too late. In fact, they are very toxic with only 0.2% of body weight in leaves potentially causing death.

I have to admit that some toxic plant may have caused Caplin Rous’ death. There is nothing obvious in my yard but not enough is known about capybaras’ sensitivity to different plants. And maybe there is some plant that Caplin ate one leaf from per month but that built up over the course of years.

There is one thing for certain though, we all need to be more careful about toxic plants. And this is not just for pets, these plants could just as easily cause serious illness or death in children. If you are unsure about the plants in your yard, have a landscaper or botanist out to identify them for you. Ask about toxicity and then look them up yourself.

Because of Buella’s death, I am going to have the ROUS Foundation investigate labeling and warnings on nursery plants. You can help, tell me what you know.

Also, do not forget that herbicides and insecticides are poisons! Please do not use them on your property if you have pets or young children. And “weed and feeds” are included in that category.

Here is a link to the ASPCA page on toxic plants.

Here is a link to a book, The Safe Dog Handbook by Melanie Monteiro, that covers the same subject.

15 comments to In Memoriam: Buella Belle Capybara

  • Petraneferu

    Thank you for posting on a painful subject. More things to be aware of in terms of toxic substances are human medications, alcohol and drugs (especially marijuana), cigarette butts, cleaning supplies, house plants, paint, and pesticides/rodenticides. I have witnessed many pets die from all of these things, and those are experiences I sincerely wish (as a veterinary technician), that I had never had.

  • Oh, this is just so sad. Such a young and beautiful capybara. Thanks for writing such an important post. And it’s wonderful you have set up the ROUS Foundation. Smooches to Gari.

  • I am so sorry to hear of the loss of another wonderful Capy. They seem like such wonderful pets, yet so mysterious when it comes to their health. I hope that the necropsy will give answers that will give some peace of mind.

  • Kathryn Aldridge

    I learned about azaleas and rhododendrons being poisonous when I had a goat. One might assume that if a plant is poisonous to goats, it’s also poisonous to rabbits and capybaras. Accordingly, I’m submitting this list of poisonous plants:

  • francine

    Antifreeze is also incredibly poisonous.

    Poor little capy.

  • The referenced ASPCA list contains so many plants with so little information that it will be frustrating for most people. It doesn’t even separate out the houseplants, which are notoriously suspect. Try to find a list specific to your region, so it doesn’t include both Florida and Alaska plants, and one that tells you which part of the plant is the problem. For example, here in Washington State, our agriculture school has an easy to understand list:

  • Marc

    Another heart breaking story…my heart goes out to Buella Belle’s owner and family. It hurts no matter what anyone tries to say, but I’ll think that Buella Belle and Caplin are running around happy now…

  • Steve

    I am so sorry about Buella Belle, she was such a beautiful Cappy. She looked like a loving little girl with all of her friends. She is going to be missed by many.

  • stacie

    In Texas and the South, it’s a constant fight against fire ants. To keep them out of your yard without using poisons, go to your local feed store and pick up a bag of dried molasses. Put it in your spreader and cover your yard. It doesn’t work overnight, but it doesn’t take long for the molasses to feed the microbes in your soil, which grow up to eat fire ant larvae. You will probably need to replace it after a good rain or every few months. What makes it worth a little extra effort is it’s completely non toxic – your children and pets can *eat* it, and at least for a little while your yard smells like molasses. 🙂

  • I am so sorry to hear about Buella Belle. I know her owner must feel terrible right now. I wish there was something I could do to ease her pain.

  • Kristy Ogden

    This breaks my heart. These losses are so painful. I am still dealing with the passing of Thumper…it will only be 1 month on the 13th (due to dental issues).

  • Joann

    Another thing to be aware of around pets is theobromine. Many animals have a very limited ability to process theobromine, the alkaloid present in chocolate as well as açaí berries. As a result, even a small amount can result in theobromine poisoning and death.

  • Dharma

    My sweet Dharma joined Caplin the day before Easter, so I know all to well what you are going through….My heart breaks still when I think of her as yours must with little Buella Belle….

  • Anna

    Rip Buella

  • Bonnie

    My sympathy to the owners and all who love this beautiful capybara. She looks so sweet in her picture. Now she is with all the capys who have gone before her. I hope that thought will give you some peace of mind.

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