In The News

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.

COURTESY JASON MCCULLOUGH

COURTESY: JASON MCCULLOUGH

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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

Read more

Support the High Park Zoo during Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Support the High Park Zoo during Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Posted: Sat., Oct 01, 2016

Lisa Rainford, Bloor West Villager

“For life-long High Park area resident Charles Jewell, running has become a lifestyle.

Five years ago, he was suffering severe back pain with herniated discs when he realized he had to make some significant life changes for the sake of his health. And so he took up running. Since then, he goes for a run at least three times a week for most of the year.

He’s putting his stamina to good use by participating in the annual Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Sunday, Oct. 16, as a champion runner for the High Park Zoo. The pledges he collects will specifically support the Friends of High Park Zoo’s ‘Master Plan’ to improve the animal shelters and public spaces.”

Click here for the full story.

Read more

Plans in place for a new High Park zoo

Master plans unveiled to volunteers

Metro Morning Interview Matt Galloway and Chair, John Formosa Feb 3 2015

CBC News Posted: Feb 03, 2016 6:30 AM ETLast Updated: Feb 03, 2016 8:00 AM ET

The plan for the High Park Zoo will include places to pet llamas and bunnies.

The plan for the High Park Zoo will include places to pet llamas and bunnies. (Friends of High Park Zoo/supplied)

The Friends of High Park Zoo just unveiled a plan to redesign the 120-year-old attraction. Board chair John Formosa said the redesign will improve the space for people who visit and the animals that live there.

Work is set to begin in 2017 to get the zoo more greenery, better flood protection and improved facilities for the animals.

Formosa said three animals will benefit most: the bison are getting a big upgrade, he said, and there will be a new area to feed and pet the bunnies and llamas.

High park zoo

In addition, Friends of High Park Zoo are planting 100 trees and adding green islands to the paved roadway in the centre of the zoo. They’re adding more educational facilities, too, Formosa said.

But the key to the redesigns is retaining the zoo’s heritage, said Formosa. The group wanted to keep the zoo experience low-key and intimate.

Speaking on Metro Morning Wednesday, Formosa said the local community proved its commitment to the zoo by stepping forward to raise private donations when the city pulled the zoo’s operating funds from its budget in 2011.

“It’s been around for more than 120 years. It’s always been free,” he said.B “The intimacy you see there between children and animals, it’s really quite compelling.”

On Jan. 28, Formosa and the board of directors unveiled the master plan to a small audience of volunteers and residents. The plans were well-received then, but more public input will be sought in a design phase.

The city is doing road improvements soon, so the group is looking to coordinate. The group is hoping to start the renovations in 2017.

Read more

Friends of High Park Zoo unveil future improvements

Inside Toronto

Mon., Feb 01, 2016 | By Hilary Caton

http://m.insidetoronto.com/news-story/6258188-friends-of-high-park-zoo-unveil-future-improvements

From facing closure to getting a facelift, High Park Zoo not only continues to bring people closer to nature, it now has improvements in its future.

Plans for the zoo’s future improvements were unveiled to a room of eager volunteers and nearby residents, Thursday, Jan. 28, receiving a positive reception.

Friends of High Park Zoo (FHPZ) chair John Formosa, along with landscape architect Brent Raymond of the firm DTAH, unveiled the design of the High Park Zoo Master Plan, to a small audience and everyone seemed pleased.

B bIt is a wonderful improvement. It doesn’t take much to see that the zoo as it stands is in bad shape, said Grace Petrucci, a volunteer at the zoo. bThese enhancements are fabulous and absolutely exciting.b

With the construction of the new Deer Pen Road slated for 2017, which will have more curves and less curbs, the zoo looks to receive a slew of enhancements. Following the meeting, Raymond told The Villager that once the city announced the roads construction, it bunlocked all of its potential,b and called it a breal catalyst for everything.

The zoo enhancements range from the large, such as increasing the size of the bison pen by seven-metres and creating a new administrative building; to the small, such as improving lighting, installing flags and signs so that the zoo is more noticeable, and improving the overall plant quality.

The master plan also looks to improve the zoo experience for the animals as well with new creative furnishings for them to enjoy such as ponds and interactive feeders.

It was a pretty easy project to do, we actually set the vision pretty early on and we knew what the opportunities were and we worked within the constraints,b Raymond said.

Although the master plan isn’t a formal city project, the FHPZ, a community and volunteer driven organization that’s launched this initiative, is working with the City’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation department, to enhance and sustain the zoo.

For the chair of the FHPZ, this master plan shows true growth and the neighbourhood’s love for the zoo.

It’s a huge testament to the community here because this has been a total grassroots initiative,b Formosa said.

It’s a great example of what communities can do.

The zoo will have to tackle some major improvements such as creating a colourful main pathway that is accessible, improve stormwater management and enhance the gateway to the zoo all while maintaining its park feel, Raymond said.

Keeping the zoo’s profile fairly demure is something Andrew Kohan of India Road and Garden Avenue believes the landscape architects did well.

It looks like a great way to make things more attractive without going overboard in spending. It doesn’t mess too much with the low key nature of the zoo. It’s a pretty chill space that people can walk through,b he said.

I love it. I love that it expands space for the animals and makes the space for the people better. It’s a much more humane space in many ways for both visitors and residents of the zoo.

The next step in the master plan process is to take feedback and comments from residents and make any necessary changes. Following that, the group will determine overall costs and determine which projects have the highest priority and when should they happen. The plan will set out improvement projects in phases.

Farmosa said, the FHPZ will also be lobbying all levels of government, foundations and corporations for funding in the near future.

This is one of the jewels of Toronto, Formosa said.

As the awareness (of the zoo) grows, people are showing that it’s a worthwhile investment and a worthwhile asset for Toronto to keep and really improve and bring up to date.

There is no set date for when improvements in the zoo will start.

 

Read more