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The High Park capybaras enthralled the city after their famous escape. Now, they’ve embraced the quiet life

As the decade comes to a close, the Star looks back at some of its most captivating stories and reveals what’s been happening in the meantime.

The door to the yard swings open, and Bonnie pops her head out of the old barn. She’s the bolder of the two High Park capybaras. In another life, she could have been a C-suite executive. But she is a rodent, and we shouldn’t anthropomorphize rodents — except, in the spring of 2016, that was exactly what Toronto did when she and another capybara escaped the High Park Zoo and became freewheeling folk heroes of the moment.

“Two dog-sized tropical rodents known as capybaras busted out of the High Park Zoo Tuesday morning,” the first Toronto Star story began in late May 2016, back when such descriptors were still necessary for the lumbering South American animals, before “giant guinea pigs” was the acceptable shorthand.

The devastation of the Fort McMurray wildfires had dominated the headlines earlier that month, and so did Donald Trump as he picked up wins in the primaries. He became the presumptive Republican nominee about the same time the capybaras slipped the gate, the same time Drake was making a run at song of the summer, serving up an inadvertent soundtrack for the capybara plight with One Dance: “Streets not safe/ But I never run away/ Even when I’m away/ Oti, oti, there’s never much love when we go OT/ I pray to make it back in one piece/ I pray, I pray.”

They were gone for weeks as trackers, volunteers, citizens, city staff and the Toronto Wildlife Centre workers searched, leaving sweet corn and fruit in the woods and playing recordings of capybaras in hopes of luring them home.

The city was enthralled.

“We can imagine them anywhere among us, making our lives a little less predictable, a little wilder,” Mike Doherty wrote in the Star. “We dream that they could permanently evade capture in the urban jungle, glimpsed only as they skitter through the streets, Sasquatches of the city. As we shout, ‘Free the capybaras!’ really we want to free ourselves.” He also called them the “Kyle Lowrys of the animal world: plucky, irrepressible and underappreciated elsewhere, but coming into their own in Hogtown.”

In the spring of 2016, the capybaras escaped. They may have been recaptured, but by then they had us in their thrall.

Nearly four years later, as the decade draws to a close, President Donald Trump is in the White House, Kyle Lowry is an NBA champion, and life is quieter for Bonnie and Clyde. They had pups after their return, but now they’re empty-nesters.

On a recent morning, the zoo was subdued under a layer of snow. The capybaras tentatively walked outside, taking in the scene with big brown eyes that are in line with their nostrils, and their ears — a strategic alignment, so they can submerge themselves into the water the same way a crocodile might. (It’s a good aquatic skill to have if you’re native to the forests and swamps of South America, or looking to evade capture in the ponds and lakes of High Park.)

They’ve spent the morning in their barn, under a heat lamp, like a pair of 90-pound chicken nuggets. They love water but they hate snow and the door stays open in case they want to return to the warmth. Inside the barn, there is the daily flake of hay, and a steady supply of pellets. But outside, if their lived experience has taught them anything, they know there will be peppers, cauliflowers, pears and apples in the food bowl, a dose of Vitamin C their bodies do not produce on their own.

Clyde does a slow lap, making dainty and deliberate steps, holding his semi-webbed paw aloft to avoid the chill of the snow. Bonnie waits near the empty food bowl. “What’s going on Miss Bonnie?” zookeeper Sonya Dittkrist asks as she empties a container of veggies. It’s quiet enough that you can hear the soft clicking noises the animals make to each other. “They have these little ‘meep meep meeps’ and a bark when they’re scared or excited, but mostly it’s just the clicks,” Dittkrist says.

Clyde waits beside Bonnie like a shadow, and then he sits on his hind legs on a bit of straw that has been placed nearby for his comfort. The capybaras love to sunbathe, so staff give them lots of straw piles outdoors during the winter. Dittkrist says they also spread the food around, or stick vegetables on small branches to encourage a bit of exercise during these long winter months. They find the summer more agreeable, spending their days running into a small pond and rolling in the mud.

“They get in there and get all mucky and they just love it,” she says. Dittkrist has videos of the happy family frolicking on one such occasion in the summer of 2017, one year after the escape. People liked to imagine the night of passion happened during the escape, but Bonnie became pregnant after they returned. Three pups were born in February 2017, and they’ve since gone to other zoos.

Eventually, Bonnie tires of the food and instead of returning indoors she stares at the woods. Some might be tempted to see it as an ache for the wild life, but she’s likely trying to avoid eye contact with us. We are standing near the door she once slipped, and it is slightly ajar, but neither of capybaras seems interested in the expanse of High Park. There are no heat lamps in the woods, no cut up bell peppers, no comfortable straw.

Before they became famous, the breeding couple was meant to be a trade for the zoo’s lone male capybara named Chewy. When they arrived, nobody noticed the gate to their enclosure hadn’t latched properly. Normally, the adventure would have stopped there, but a second locked gate was open because of a delivery. Dittkrist wasn’t there, but she knows the circumstances, and how the capybaras were excitedly testing everything out. “They came across the gate and when they bumped it, it just popped open and out they went.” New gates have been installed. There are extra locks. The latches catch properly. The fence is higher. “Just to be on the safe side,” she says. “They aren’t really good climbers, but every once and a while they go up and it just makes you a little bit nervous.”

In the spring of 2016, people “spotted” capybaras all over Toronto in the form of “odd hairless animals,” giant rats, beavers and groundhogs. None of the tips were promising until a sighting close to High Park. Bonnie was caught inside the park on June 12 while Clyde held on for another 15 days before he was scooped up at Grenadier Pond. “Now that the adventure is over, the capybaras join the Ikea monkey, #DeadRaccoon and white squirrel as prominent figures in Toronto’s pantheon of ridiculous animals,” the Star’s Alex Ballingall wrote at the close of the caper.

The search cost $15,000 in overtime and tracking costs according to an FOI filed by the Star. If there were people who were angry about the expense, they didn’t write to the Star to complain. An American man wrote a letter to say he couldn’t wait to see the “adorable capys” on his next trip to Toronto.

“Dollar for dollar and pound for pound, rounding up Bonnie and Clyde was worth every single penny and more,” wrote Nancy Stevens in a letter to the editor, adding that speculating on their life on the lam was a “most welcome diversion.”

Katie Daubs is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @kdaubs

Originally published in TheStar.com

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High Park Zoo welcomes new bison calf – but is it a he or a she?

Calf was born Saturday afternoon during High Park’s busy cherry blossom weekend

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Trio of baby capybaras at Toronto zoo named after Rush’s members

Rush‘s Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart have received many honors during their long career, including induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, but a newly announced accolade from Toronto’s High Park Zoo is perhaps the band’s most unique.

A trio of baby capybaras — large South American rodents — have been named Geddy, Alex and Neil, thanks to a recent poll conducted by the Friends of High Park Zoo.

Over 44,800 votes were cast, with more than 32,500 choosing the first names of Rush’s members. The poll’s first runners-up were Snap, Crackle and Pop, which received about 9,200 votes.

“We are thrilled to hear that 3 cute little furry creatures from South America now bear our names at High Park Zoo in Toronto!” Lee writes in a post on Rush’s Instagram page, which also includes a photo of the capybara cubs. “Thanks to all who voted to give us this special honour! By the way, which one is me? In the picture I saw none of them were wearing glasses.”

The capybara triplets, which were born in February are among the popular attractions at High Park Zoo. The young rodents’ parents, known as Bonnie and Clyde, made news last year when they escaped from the zoo for several weeks before being recaptured.

Capybaras are found throughout most of South America. The animals are related to guinea pigs, but are much larger, with some adults weighing nearly 150 pounds.

Rush has been inactive since wrapping up a 40th anniversary tour in August 2015. The band has announced that the trek was their final major tour, although Lee and Lifeson have said they expect the group to eventually record more new music.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Original article by ABC News Radio Online

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Rush Gets Famous Toronto Capybaras Offspring Named After Them

Toronto rock trio Rush has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide, been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame. But you know you’ve really made it when three capybaras are named after you.

At the insistence of the Rush-and-rodent-loving public, the triplet offspring of the famous touring duo, Bonnie and Clyde, have been named after the band’s singer/bassist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart.

It should be noted that in September, a suburban park in Toronto was named the Lee Lifeson Art Park in an area in which the pair grew up and Rush formed in 1971, but that’s nothing compared to having living breathing dog-sized rodents with your name.

“We are thrilled to hear that three cute little furry creatures from South America now bear our names,” Lee said in a statement. “Thanks to all who voted to give us this special honour! By the way, which one is me? In the picture I saw none of them were wearing glasses.”

Lifeson, who is in Europe, told Billboard in an email, “Ahhh, so this is what happened when their mom and dad ran away! It is really a very cool honour to have these triplets named after us and many thanks to all who voted.”

Yes, ran away. Where to begin, if you’re not up to speed on the famous capy capers?

Last May, two then-unnamed capybaras escaped from a local Toronto zoo situated in High Park. They were on tour, if you will, for 36 days.

If the people of Toronto didn’t know what a capybara was at the time — remember the national wildlife are moose, geese and beavers, and these guinea-pig-like species are native to South America — we certainly were familiar with the world’s largest rodents by the time they were captured.

The capy couple’s little honeymoon cost the City about $15,000 ($11,300 USD) in manpower — including the futile hiring of an animal tracker — and overtime. Calls came in from all over the Greater Toronto Area with sightings, some legit, some not. Finally, one capybara was captured on June 12, the second on June 28. They were nicknamed Bonnie and Clyde.

Well, Bonnie got pregnant and gave birth to three “capybabies” in February. In April, Friends of High Park asked the public for name suggestions and received 12,600 of them. A shortlist was decided and another call went out to the public to vote for their favourite trio of names from May 31 until June 19 — 44,817 votes were cast.

The winning set — Geddy, Alex and Neil — was announced yesterday (June 24) as part of a celebration at the capybara’s pen at High Park Zoo. The short list included Snap, Crackle and Pop, and Mocha, Chino and Latte.

The zoo has been around since the late 1800s and today — besides the famous capybaras — is home to bison, llamas, peacocks, reindeer, highland cattle, wallabies, emus and sheep. The zoo is free to the public and attracts over 600,000 visitors each year.

Original article by Billboard

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Runaway Toronto capybaras’ triplets named Geddy, Neil and Alex after Rush members

Last May, a pair of capybaras (the largest rodents in the world, which CBC says “resemble oversize tail-less beavers“) decided to choose free will, escaping Toronto’s High Park Zoo, and their headlong flight lasted for weeks. One was caught last June 12, but the other anarchist stayed free for another six days. The capybaras (since dubbed “Bonnie” and “Clyde”) were then reunited, though, and apparently that led to them getting, uh, closer to the heart; Bonnie gave birth to triplets in February. And in what makes this story even more Canadian than it taking place in Toronto or involving “oversize tail-less beavers,” a naming contest resulted in the triplets being named after the members of famed prog-rock trio Rush:

The offspring of Toronto’s wandering capybaras now have names — Alex, Geddy and Neil, for members of the band Rush.

…The zoo has said the couple credits their “long time apart” for kindling the passion that led to the birth of the three pups.

Coun. Sarah Doucette, whose ward includes High Park, says nearly 45,000 people voted in a contest held to determine the triplets’ names.

Runners-up included “Snap, Crackle and Pop”, and “Mocha, Chino and Latte.”

Doucette says the winning set of names received more than 30,000 votes.

This is perfect on so many levels. Having capybaras named for you might be viewed as malignant narcissism by some, but it’s a far cry from that in this case, and not particularly close to heresy. The members of Rush (singer/bassist Geddy Lee, drummer/lyricist Neil Peart, and guitarist Alex Lifeson) aren’t really living in the limelight these days, ceasing large-scale touring at the end of 2015 thanks to Peart not wanting to be on the road and dealing with physical challenges. And that final tour, for the band’s 40th anniversary, was a typically modest Rush way to push back against conventional marketing; they didn’t even announce it would be a farewell tour, and chose a whole bunch of deeper-cut songs instead of just playing the hits.

Now that’s the good side of the spirit of radio, showing off some everyday glory. Having people vote overwhelmingly to name capybara triplets (from their home city of Toronto, no less) after them feels like an ideal tribute. Especially considering the wacky animal-inspired videos they often showed in concert:

Rock on, Alex, Geddy and Neil Capybara.

Original article by TheComeBack

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‘Capybabies’ Of Toronto’s Famous Capybaras Named After Rush Band Members

TORONTO — The offspring of Toronto’s wandering capybaras now have names — Alex, Geddy and Neil, for members of the band, Rush.

The High Park Zoo says the “capybabies” were born in February to famed escape artists Bonnie and Clyde.

 The elder capybaras, which resemble oversized tail-less beavers, became celebrities when they escaped last May and eluded zoo staff and animal detectives for weeks.

Their daring escape led to dozens of sightings. One capybara was eventually caught June 12 and the other remained free until June 28.

 The zoo has said the couple credits their “long time apart” for kindling the passion that led to the birth of the three pups.

Coun. Sarah Doucette, whose ward includes High Park, says nearly 45,000 people voted in a contest held to determine the triplets’ names.

Runners-up included “Snap, Crackle and Pop”, and “Mocha, Chino and Latte.”

Doucette says the winning set of names received more than 30,000 votes.

Rush is a legendary Canadian rock band made up of singer Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer Neil Peart. Lee said Saturday he was thrilled the capybabies were named after the band.

With a file from HuffPost Canada.

Original article by HufftingtoPost

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Rush singer Geddy Lee says he’s thrilled Toronto’s ‘capybabies’ named for band

The three capybara babies, seen here in an April 23 file photo. (BRIAN BRADLEY/ TORONTO STAR)

The three capybara babies, seen here in an April 23 file photo. (BRIAN BRADLEY/ TORONTO STAR)

After over 44,817 votes were cast, Bonnie and Clyde’s trio of capybara pups have been named.

The offspring of Toronto’s famous fugitive capybaras have new names. The three “capybabies” are — drum roll please — Alex, Geddy and Neil.

Rock fans of will recognize the names as a tribute to the three members of legendary Canadian band Rush: Guitarist Alex Lifeson, drummer Neil Pert and singer Geddy Lee, who on Saturday said the band is “thrilled to hear that three cute little furry creatures from South America now bear our names.”

“Thanks to all who voted to give us this special honour,” he said, through his publicist. “By the way, which one is me? In the picture I saw none of them were wearing glasses.”

The High Park Zoo’s elder capybaras, named Bonnie and Clyde after the infamous American bank robbers from the 1930s, became celebrities when they escaped last May and eluded zoo staff and animal detectives for weeks.

Their daring escape led to dozens of sightings. One of the capybaras, which resemble oversized tail-less beavers, was eventually caught June 12 and the other remained free until June 28.

The zoo has said the couple credits their “long time apart” for kindling the passion that led to the birth of the three pups in February.

The zoo held a naming contest for their three pups, with the winning names attracting 32,519 votes online, the zoo announced Saturday.

The zoo said 44,817 votes were cast in total. Runners-up included “Snap, Crackle and Pop”, and “Mocha, Chino and Latte.”

The zoo received over 12,600 name suggestions for the capybabies. The shortlist, narrowed down to 10 trios, was announced at the end of May.

With files from Fakiha Baig and The Canadian Press

Photo credit: BRIAN BRADLEY/ TORONTO STAR

Original article by TheStar

 

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New High Park capybaras named after members of ‘Rush’

TORONTO – The offspring of Toronto’s wandering capybaras now have names — Alex, Geddy and Neil, for members of the band Rush.

The High Park Zoo says the “capybabies” were born in February to famed escape artists Bonnie and Clyde.

The elder capybaras, which resemble oversized tail-less beavers, became celebrities when they escaped last May and eluded zoo staff and animal detectives for weeks.

Their daring escape led to dozens of sightings. One capybara was eventually caught June 12 and the other remained free until June 28.

The zoo has said the couple credits their “long time apart” for kindling the passion that led to the birth of the three pups.

Coun. Sarah Doucette, whose ward includes High Park, says nearly 45,000 people voted in a contest held to determine the triplets’ names.

Original article by CP24

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High Park Zoo capybara babies named after Rush’s Alex, Geddy and Neil

Friends of High Park Zoo contest drew more than 44,000 votes

It’s official. It’s Alex, Geddy and Neil, Toronto’s most-famous and popular capybara babies.

Friends of High Park Zoo just announced the winning capy-pup names at a party at the capybaras’ pen at the zoo from which their parents, Bonnie and Clyde, escaped a year ago to much public and media attention.

More than 32,000 votes were cast in an online contest by the Friends to name the High Park Zoo capy-babies after Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee and Neil Peart, members of the iconic Canadian band, Rush.

“We got more than 44,000 votes from people all over the world,” said John Formosa, Friends of High Park Zoo board chair. “It was really quite surprising and bodes well for interest in the always-free High Park Zoo.”

The winning names turned out to be “a real see-saw battle,” Formosa said, between Rush fans and fans of the Rice Krispies’ trio, Snap, Crackle and Pop. The Krispies’ names came in first runner-up with more than 9,000 votes.

Mocha, Chino and Latte closed out the other popular names with 704 votes.

Bonnie and Clyde spent weeks on the lam last year after escaping from the west-end zoo last May.

Born on Feb. 23, their new offspring are their first-born.

Not long ago, a threat hung over more than the capybaras at High Park Zoo.

The future of the zoo itself was in question.

In 2012, Friends of High Park Zoo formed to raise funds necessary to keep the zoo open after the city threatened its closure in the wake of budget cuts for the 2012 and 2013 operating years.

“I gave a donation when the zoo was going to close. It was the first time I’d been there since I first went when I was less than six months old,” Formosa said.

That same year, the Honey Family Foundation committed to a three-year matching donation program, which has helped to raise more than $380,000 to date.

Since, Friends has raised “a couple million dollars” for High Park Zoo, Formosa said, and has more than 400 active volunteers.

High Park Zoo is the oldest zoo in Canada, the third-oldest zoo in North America, and in need of capital improvements, Formosa said.

Friends conceived a master plan for the High Park Zoo to guide future improvements, including the llama pen, the capybara pen, the aviary and other animal pens and visitor areas.

The first phase of capital improvements is planned to include construction of washrooms, a new storm water management system, new benches and the planting of more than 100 trees and green beds in the zoo pen areas, Formosa said.

Phases two and three will enhance the zoo pens, which are century-old log structures, he added.

The zoo’s 11 paddocks are home to bison, llamas, peacocks, reindeer, highland cattle, emus and sheep.

It attracts more than 700,000 visitors annually.

High Park Zoo is open daily from 7 a.m. to dusk with free admission.

Visit www.highparkzoo.ca/participate to donate to High Park Zoo. All donations of $10 or more made to the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation directed to High Park Zoo receive a tax receipt.

Original article by Inside Toronto

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Canadian rock trio Rush thrilled Toronto’s ‘capybaby’ triplets named after them

Photo Credit: Emma Kimmerly/CBC

Members of the legendary Canadian rock trio Rush are thrilled at the news that the offspring of Toronto’s wandering capybaras will bear their names.

“We are thrilled to hear that 3 cute little furry creatures from South America now bear our names!” the band’s publicist Meghan Symsyk said on behalf of lead vocalist Geddy Lee.

“Thanks to all who voted to give us this special honour! By the way, which one is me? In the picture I saw none of them were wearing glasses.”

The so-called “capybabies” born in February to the famed escape artists Bonnie and Clyde will be named Alex, Geddy and Neil for the band’s members, said the High Park Zoo.

The elder capybaras, which resemble oversized tail-less beavers, became celebrities when they escaped last May and eluded zoo staff and animal detectives for weeks.

Their daring escape led to dozens of sightings. One capybara was eventually caught June 12 and the other remained free until June 28.

The zoo has said the couple credits their “long time apart” for kindling the passion that led to the birth of the three pups.

Coun. Sarah Doucette, whose ward includes High Park, says nearly 45,000 people voted in a contest held to determine the triplets’ names.

Runners-up included “Snap, Crackle and Pop”, and “Mocha, Chino and Latte.”

Doucette says the winning set of names received more than 30,000 votes.

With files from The Canadian Press

Photo Credit: Emma Kimmerly/CBC

Original article by CBC News

Original article by MetroNews

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