Help Name the Baby Capybaras

Thank you for your interest in naming our three capybabies!

Voting has now closed. The results will be revealed and the most popular names will be given to our capybabies at a celebration at High Park Zoo on Saturday, June 24 at noon. Please join us for refreshments!

Stay tuned for exciting updates – the results will also be posted online!

As you may be aware, we are also raising funds to enhance the Capybara’s home, so if you can help even a little bit, please make a donation here.

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High Park Zoo wants your help naming capybabies

By: Metro Published on Wed Apr 19 2017

They’ve already made their social media debut and well wishes have poured in from across the city. But Toronto’s most famous new bundles of joy, the three High Park capybara pups, still need names.



Members of Friends of High Park Zoo are asking for the public’s help in naming the adorable offspring.

The three were born to international capybara celebrities Bonnie and Clyde after they returned to the zoo from an infamous escape last summer.

Names can be submitted online or by hard copy ballot at the west-end zoo. Suggestions will be pulled together in short list that the public can vote on.

Toronto Parks and Recreation spokesperson Megan Price said she wouldn’t be surprised if there are some themed names that come out ahead.

“I’m sure there’ll be some names related to bandits, or thieves or escapees,” she said.

But please keep suggestions gender neutral, as it’s still a mystery whether the babies are male or female.

Price said that won’t become clear until the animals are older, and the males can be identified by a scent patch on their noses.

“I think we’re looking for something that could go either way,” she said.

Friends of High Park Zoo Board chair John Formosa said he’s been surprised by the interest, the non-profit has already received over 1,800 suggestions on their website.

He added the board is toying with the idea of bringing in celebrity judges to whittle down the short list before a public vote.

The Auckland Zoo in New Zealand recently held a similar naming contest for a pair of capybara babies.

The two were christened Pepe and Pablo in a nod to their South American heritage, according to the zoo’s website.

Price said the Toronto capybabies are doing great, but won’t stay at the zoo forever.

“I don’t think the intention is for the High Park Zoo to have five capybaras permanently, but they’re not going anywhere before they’re named,” she said.

Original article by Metro News

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These capybaras escaped the zoo for a summer of love. Now they’re back, with babies.

PRI – The World – Apr 10, 2017

They love water and have webbed feet and short, vestigial tails.

And on Saturday, I came face-to-face — or more like microphone-to-snout, with the world’s most famous capybaras.

I visited Toronto’s High Park Zoo, where last summer two capybaras made a break for freedom.

“Bonnie and Clyde, as we named them, escaped the very first day they arrived,” explains zookeeper Sonya Dittkrist. “So they were on the lam, one was 4 weeks and one was 6 weeks.”

And during that time, there were daily sightings. Torontonians were monitoring the park’s lake area for the rodents of unusual size.

Bonnie and Clyde were returned safely to the park zoo after spending the summer swimming in the pond and grazing on grass and plants.

And Dittkrist says even though staff were concerned for the pair and wanted them back, the capybaras didn’t pose a threat to the public.

“Not unless you could actually get your hands on them. Then they can bite. They have actually really long teeth. They are about the length of your fingers … they could hurt you, but, yeah, they are just big chickens.”

The pair’s escape sparked a citywide fascination with the capybaras.

But the rodents are indigenous to South America — mostly in Brazil — so they like a warm climate.

In recent months, the capys have been laying low and staying inside their barn. But they’ve been keeping busy.

“We’ve got three bouncing babies,” says Dittkrist. “They were born February 23rd, so they are our new edition and we love them. They are so cute.”

And here’s where my zoo visit went from nice — to a dream come true. Dittkrist tells me it’s lunchtime and that I can feed the babies and Bonnie and Clyde. She fills up a bowl with corn, cantaloupe and apples. And we go to the pen where the family has collected around a mud pit.

But the sound of the gate opening brings the adults over to investigate. With a chunk of raw corn stuck onto the end of a stick, I lure Clyde over for a snack.

Credit: Jessica Blake

Credit: Jessica Blake

Little kids push their corn sticks into the pen to get the capys to come closer.

And then one of the baby capybaras gets curious and starts sniffing my feet.

The little guy was using those long pronglike teeth to chew on the end of my shoe.

After a brief taste test, the baby goes back to picking up chunks of corn.

I can’t explain why I love capybaras. Maybe it’s the soulful eyes.

Maybe it’s the cute snouts or the roly-poly bellies.

After my time in the pen, I have one last question about capybaras for the zookeeper.

Can I get one as a pet?

“You can’t have them in the city,” says Dittkrist. “But if you had a farm. It is possible, I believe, that you could have them as a pet.”

Now, I just need to get that farm.

Original article from PRI

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High Park capybaras add 3 new accomplices to their family with birth of babies

CBC News Mar 3, 2017

Large rodents, dubbed Bonnie and Clyde, were on the run for weeks when they escaped enclosure last spring

Toronto’s infamous capybara couple, who gained fame when they broke free from the High Park Zoo last spring, are expanding their family.

Mayor John Tory announced that the capybaras, nicknamed Bonnie and Clyde after they spent weeks on the lam from authorities, have had three “capybabies.”

“The couple credits their long time apart this summer wandering the wilderness of Toronto’s High Park for the kindling of their passion, and now they have three adorable pups to show for it,” says an official birth announcement tweeted by Tory.

The mayor said “Bonnie” and her babies are “healthy and doing well.”

In response to the birth, the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation, which works with the city and private groups to improve the city’s parks and public spaces, launched a “baby registry” to solicit donations for the zoo. The High Park attraction is in the midst of a 10-year, $20-million upgrade.

Capybara enclosure to be upgraded

The furry fugitives made international headlines when they escaped from their pen at the High Park Zoo, in the city’s west end, last May 24.

One was caught after two weeks, while the second was trapped after a month.

In October, a group called Friends of High Park Zoo announced a fundraising campaign to help the facility upgrade the capybara enclosure to ensure the large rodents and their pups don’t make a second break for it.

The renovation is part of the larger capital improvement plan for the zoo, which attracts more than 700,000 visitors each year, according to the foundation.

The proposed renovations to the capybara area include enlarging their small pond so they will have more room to swim, and upgrading gates and fences.

Original article published in cbc.ca

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Friends of High Park Zoo is Seeking Qualified Board of Directors Nominations

Friends of High Park Zoo is Seeking Qualified Board of Directors Nominations

  • Nominations for Eligible Candidates are Due Friday March 3, 2017
  • Up to Five Directors Expected to be Elected on Two-Year Terms
  • AGM to be held Sunday March 26, 2017, 2 pm to 3:30 pm at Howard Park Tennis Club (Toronto)

Friends of High Park Zoo (FHPZ)

We are seeking inspired and motivated volunteer board members to oversee the activities of our organization for 2017 and 2018 (High Park Zoo’s 125th anniversary). As we further execute our Master Plan to enhance and sustain High Park Zoo, we require directors to steward the undertaking of these improvements including planning, procurement and fundraising. FHPZ currently plans to break ground on Master Plan projects in 2017. For more details, visit https://www.highparkzoo.ca/masterplan/

In 2017, FHPZ expects to elect up to five directors each on two-year terms.

This year’s election will be held at our Annual General Meeting on Sunday March 26, 2017 at Howard Park Tennis Club, 430 Parkside Drive – on the east side of High Park in Toronto from 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm. http://www.howardparktennis.com/about-us/location/

Priority areas for 2017

Each year the Board of FHPZ completes an evaluation of its directors’ skills and experience and identifies its future needs. In light of FHPZ’s strategic plan and organizational performance, the Board prioritizes the skills and abilities most important to fulfilling its governance function over the coming years.

In 2017, the Board is particularly seeking candidates with experience, among other things, in the areas of Fundraising and Grant Writing and Development and Project Management. The Board will make its recommendations based on the extent to which each candidate exhibits experience in the priority areas and other attributes. See Experience below.

Next Steps

If you (or a Member that supports your nomination) are eligible and believe you align with the Vision, Mission and Values of FHPZ and have the passion and experience to be an effective Board member, please nominate yourself (or a Member) by submitting your resume and a cover letter (the Member’s contact information) by Friday March 3, 2017 6:00 pm Eastern Standard Time. References may be requested. See Eligibility below.

All applications must be submitted electronically to: board@highparkzoo.ca

If you have any questions regarding this process please contact John Formosa, Chair FHPZ Board of Directors, at board@highparkzoo.ca

Overview Of FHPZ Board

FHPZ is governed by an elected volunteer member Board of Directors. The Board of Directors is comprised of no fewer than five (5) and no more than nine (9) Directors serving either one or two-year terms. Officer positions include: Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary and Treasurer.


To be eligible to be nominated, a FHPZ Board candidate must be a Member in good standing, at least eighteen (18) years of age and legally capable of serving as a director of a not-for-profit corporation in Ontario (see details below).

To be eligible as a Member in good standing of FHPZ, a donation during 2016 (or by March 3, 2017) must have been made to FHPZ or on behalf of FHPZ to the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation. (Visit https://www.highparkzoo.ca/participate for more information.) Members can nominate themselves or other Members to be Board candidates.


FHPZ was formed in 2012 to raise the necessary funds to ensure that the Zoo remained open in the wake of City budget cuts. FHPZ is a registered not-for-profit corporation created expressly to generate support for High Park Zoo. FHPZ is seeking Board candidate nominations of individuals with one or more of the following areas of expertise:

  1. Not-for-Profit Organization Experience: Board or executive level experience in one or more not-for-profit corporations.
  2. Governance Experience: Recent board experience with one or more organizations (for-profit or not-for-profit).
  3. Organizational Leadership: Experience and direct responsibility with employees and/or volunteers.
  4. Financial Acumen: Experience and responsibility in the preparation, interpretation and dissemination of financial reports, budgets and statements and coordinating with the organization’s auditors.
  5. Fundraising and Grant Writing: Experience in leading diverse fundraising activities and targeting, writing and applying for operating and capital grants.
  6. Development and Project Management: Experience in the development and management of capital projects.
  7. Sustainability/Corporate Social Responsibility: Knowledge and experience with sustainable business practices and corporate social responsibility, including an understanding of key trends and developments.
  8. Communications and Media: Experience in communications and media strategy (creating, disseminating, etc.).
  9. Legal Background: General legal experience; an understanding of legal obligations of organizations and not-for-profit organizations.

About High Park Zoo

Established in the 1893 for deer, the Zoo’s animal paddocks have always been a popular attraction. Today, over 120 years later, the Zoo’s eleven paddocks are home to a variety of animal species from around the world including bison, llamas, peacocks, reindeer, highland cattle, emus and sheep.

The Zoo is free to the public and attracts over 720,000 visitors each year. The Zoo is open every day from 7:00 am to dusk. The Llama Pen is open weekends and statutory holidays allowing visitors to feed and pet the llamas from 11:30 am to 2:00 pm beginning in April until the end of October.

About FHPZ – highparkzoo.ca

FHPZ was formed in 2012 to raise the necessary funds to ensure that the Zoo remained open in the wake of City budget cuts for the 2012 and 2013 operating years. With the City restoring operating funding in 2014, FHPZ looks to raise sustainable funding from individuals, corporations and local businesses to enhance and sustain the Zoo. Since 2015, FHPZ has embarked on a Master Plan to enhance and sustain the Zoo for the next 125 years.

FHPZ is a registered not-for-profit corporation created expressly to generate support for High Park Zoo. FHPZ accepts donations directly and through Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation, a registered charity.

VISION: To ensure there is always a free community zoo in High Park for families to enjoy.

MISSION: To enhance High Park Zoo for the benefit of all visitors by leading activities that engage the community, while promoting education, awareness and fundraising for the Zoo.

Accountable – we will be responsible, transparent and accountable to all of our stakeholders
Professional – we will at all times conduct ourselves in a manner that is both professional and respectful
Collaborate – we will work collectively with each other and others in order to achieve our goals
Community oriented – we will engage in initiatives and activities that support High Park Zoo and the community

Duties and Responsibilities of Board Members – Friends of High Park Zoo

Independently, as a Director, and collectively, as a member of the Board of Directors, a Friends of High Park Zoo (“FHPZ”) Board member assumes responsibility for:

  • setting the appropriate direction (and monitoring achievement of that direction);
  • overseeing FHPZ operations (and ensuring effective and efficient processes);
  • maintaining a strong financial position and appropriate risk management;
  • for FHPZ, by providing leadership, advice, direction and support to the organization, its members and its volunteers (and staff, if any).


  1. Communication and Preparation
    • Prepare for meetings by reading material distributed in advance, and by gathering whatever information may be required or requested by agreed on deadlines;
    • Be reasonably accessible and responsive, both by phone and by e-mail, to other Board members and key volunteers and stakeholders, as needed;
    • Attend and participate in all board meetings, except where absence is unavoidable. Listen and be respectful of other board members’ opinions; and
    • Be reasonably familiar with all by-law provisions, especially those defining the roles of Directors and Officers and setting out requirements for the removal and replacement of same
  2. Time Commitment
    • Be prepared to contribute at least 8 hours per month on average working for FHPZ (typically 2 hours for board meetings; 4 hours volunteer time, including committee meetings; 2 hours background and preparation).
    • Maintain current knowledge of programs and major issues related to the FHPZ and to the Zoo itself
  3. Set Appropriate Direction
    • (i) Provide expertise, guidance, and collaboration to board members (and staff, if any) regarding initiatives that align with the organization’s goals and initiatives and its strategic plan or business plan.
    • (ii) Assume responsibility for at least one primary area of expertise relevant to the Board’s activities and/or the strategic or business plan, and make sure that the appropriate goals and deliverables are met, and that progress and changes are regularly communicated.
    • Work with other Board members to identify and respond to key opportunities in a timely fashion
  4. Resources and Risk Management
    • Work with other Board member to ensure that key risks are identified and mitigated
    • Ensure that appropriate financial controls are in place and maintained
    • Assist in fundraising, for instance by soliciting the financial support of others; and
    • Set an example by making a significant personal contribution in time and/or money to the organization.
  5. General
    • Serve as an advocate of FHPZ for the public and build relationships within the community and amongst stakeholders.
    • Act with loyalty to FHPZ, its Vision, Mission and Values. Immediately disclose any real or potential conflict of interest, as required by the by-laws.
    • Maintain and protect the confidentiality of confidential information given to the board.
    • Ensure effective operations, succession planning and continuity by identifying potential volunteers as well as candidates for the board or its committees. 

Required Legal Qualifications of a Director Under Ontario’s Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010 (ONCA)

A director must be:

  • An individual;
  • Eighteen years of age or older;
  • A person who has not been found incapable of managing property under the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992 or the Mental Health Act;
  • A person who has not been found incapable by any court in Canada or elsewhere;
  • Not bankrupt.

The by-laws may have additional qualifications. Refer to section 23 of ONCA.

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Noel the High Park Reindeer

Noel the High Park Reindeer

Published on Dec. 17, 2016

Jane Welowszky, The Star

“Most adoring pet owners would do anything for their cherished companions, but could they speak for their furry or feathered or finned friends and tell us what they are thinking? To find out, we’re putting pet owners to the test with the personality questionnaire made famous by French novelist Marcel Proust. Meet Sonya Dittkrist and Noel.”

Click here for full story and photos.

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Master Plan – Now On Youtube

Curious about our Master Plan? Check out our new video!

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How Adele spent her day off in Toronto

How Adele spent her day off in Toronto

Published Oct. 6th, 2016

Chris Mejaski, etalk.ca

“After performing two of four sold out shows in Toronto this week, Adele took some time Wednesday to relax and take a walk in the park — and we have the photos!

The singing superstar was spotted strolling through the High Park Zoo in the city’s west end Wednesday, after receiving rave reviews at the Air Canada Centre Monday and Tuesday nights.”

Click here for full story and photos.

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Friends of High Park Zoo fundraises for new capybara enclosure

Friends of High Park Zoo fundraises for new capybara enclosure

Published October 6th, 2016.

May Warren, The Star

“Extreme Makeover: Capybara edition

The most famous residents of Toronto’s High Park Zoo could soon see a home reno.

Friends of High Park Zoo, a non-profit that raises money for the free facility, is fundraising to finance a multi-million dollar overhaul of its master plan that includes upgrades to the capybara pen.

Among other things, plans call for restoration and expansion to the century-old log structure that houses the animals along with an expanded outdoor swimming area, board chairman John Formosa said.

“They love swimming,” Formosa said about the zoo’s three dog-size rodents. “When they got away that’s where they were, in the ponds in the park.”

Two capybaras, dubbed Bonny and Clyde, gained international notoriety after they escaped from the zoo in May and spent weeks on the lam before being caught.

Overall, updating the zoo’s master plan is expected to cost about $20 million, Formosa said. A “small chunk” of that is being financed by the city, but the non-profit is also looking for funding from the federal government and private donors. It’s also hoping to renew its five-year lease with the city this week.

Other animals, will of course, benefit from upgrades.”

Click here for full story.

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High Park capybaras getting renovations that could keep them at home

High Park capybaras getting renovations that could keep them at home

CBC News

Published October 6th, 2016


The capybaras that made worldwide headlines in the spring when they escaped from Toronto’s High Park zoo will soon have more space to strut their stuff — and perhaps less chance of escaping again.

A group called Friends of High Park Zoo is raising money so the zoo can upgrade the capybara enclosure next year. It’s part of a large-scale capital improvement plan for the zoo that will cost roughly $20 million over 10 years.

Part of the plan includes enlarging the capybaras’ small pond, so they’ll have more room to swim.

“Capybaras, as part of their native habitat, they love swimming,” said John Formosa, board chair with Friends of High Park Zoo.

“The two that escaped earlier in the year … were found in the pond of High Park swimming.”

The two High Park capybaras, dubbed Bonnie and Clyde, gained international fame in May when they escaped from their pen and spent more than a month on the loose.

The capybaras gave zoo staff the slip during a transfer to their enclosure.

Part of the improvement plan, Formosa says, involves upgrades to some of the gates and fences at the zoo, which he says could prevent future escapes.

Environment will be ‘much better’

The log structure in the capybara’s enclosure, which they share with the llamas, will also be restored and expanded.

Formosa said the goal is to make their environment “much better” for the capybaras, so they’ll have more room to do the activities they enjoy in their natural habitat.

The $20 million master plan will give many parts of the zoo a face lift — not just the capybara enclosure.

The city has budgeted $700,000 for the work, which will need to be used in 2017. Friends of High Park has also raised $400,000 from the Honey Family Foundation, the Griggs Family Foundation and individual donations. It’s also seeking help from the federal and provincial government, as well as through further donations and grants.

First major improvements in 5 decades

Friends of High Park was founded in 2012 to raise money for the zoo’s operation after city budget cuts.

After the city restored operating funding in 2014, the non-profit began looking at raising funds for capital improvements. Formosa said there haven’t been any significant capital improvements at the zoo for at least 50 years.

Formosa said there’s an obvious public demand for the High Park Zoo — last year attendance went up 37 per cent, with 700,000 visitors.

“Definitely the community’s demonstrated a desire for the facility, and also it’s a necessary facility,” he said.

Original article published in Yahoo News

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