Bonnie And Clyde Capybaras Escape From Toronto Zoo

A male capybara. Image: Egg
A male capybara. Image: Egg

One of Canada’s largest cities is focussed on a pair of rodents. Two capybaras escaped last week from a small zoo in the city. *(See below for updates on the furry fugitives–they’ve both been found!)

A capybara is a South American rodent—a pretty cute-looking one—but big. In fact, capybaras are the largest rodents and can weigh up to 200 pounds.

The ones that escaped from Toronto’s High Park petting zoo are about the size of dogs, and weigh about 35 pounds each. They have been nicknamed Bonnie and Clyde, after a couple of famous 1930s gangsters.

Bonnie and Clyde capybaras, who were born in Texas, are about six months old. They escaped from their pen at the High Park petting zoo on Tuesday, May 24.

About 30 staff members from the zoo have been searching for them using bait like celery, lettuce and carrots. Seth Falk has been taking his own capybara, Willow, around High Park to try and find Bonnie and Clyde.

One woman said she saw the animals about 13 kms away from the zoo.

The capybaras have captured the imagination of Torontonians and their mayor, John Tory, who left city hall one day last week and joined the hunt for Bonnie and Clyde. The capybaras also have their own Twitter accounts, @HPcapybara and @TorontoCapybara, and lots of memes about them have cropped up on the Internet.

Bonnie and Clyde aren’t the first animals to escape from the High Park Zoo. Last year, a four-foot tall peacock escaped for four days until it was caught. And in 1994, three wild bison were freed by vandals from their pen at the zoo; they were recaptured six hours later. Llamas, a yak and a wallaby were let out of their pens by vandals in 2009.

Capybaras are not aggressive, and usually run away from humans; however, they could bite if they are cornered, so people are being asked not to approach them. If someone does spot Bonnie and Clyde, they should call 311, which is a City of Toronto information line, say City officials.

A note on rodents: A rodent is a type of mammal. Some other rodents are: mice, rats, beavers, porcupines, guinea pigs, prairie dogs, squirrels and hamsters. They are herbivores (in this case, it means they eat grasses and water plants) and have a pair of teeth in their upper and lower jaws that keep growing throughout their life; the teeth are ground down when the rodent gnaws on things. Capybaras are “semi-aquatic” which means they swim. The Latin (scientific) name for capybara is Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris.


4. UPDATE: Both capybaras have been captured and are now back in their home at the High Park Zoo. CBC updates the situation in this article.

3. UPDATE: One of the capybaras has been captured and brought back to its home in the zoo! The CBC article here.

2. UPDATE June 8, 2016: Here’s a great article by CBC about a man who spotted one of the runaway capybaras. (They’re still on the lam, but it includes a pretty good photo.)

1. UPDATE June 5, 2016: There have been some recent (early June) sightings of what are believed to be their tracks. Maybe the capybaras will be back in their home, soon!


By Kathleen Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
Not only has this story captured the interest of people living in Toronto, but this story has spread across Ontario and Canada. It has even been featured in international newspapers. Why do you think people across the world are so interested in this story?

Reading Prompt: Point of View
This story is written from the point of view of a journalist telling the facts about the capybaras’ disappearance. Write the story from the point of view of the capybaras, imagining their escape and their current adventure.

Language Feature: Meme
The article states that “lots of memes about them have cropped up on the Internet.” What is a meme?

A meme is often a funny image, video or text is shared many times and very quickly over the Internet. A few capybara memes can be seen through this news link on CTV:

Using a picture of a capybara or drawing your own, create your own capybara meme.