Capybara Fugitive Is Captured in Toronto

A capybara in the sun. Kevin Xu Photography/Shutterstock

Occasionally, zoo animals make getaways, but typically they're recaptured relatively quickly after enjoying a taste of freedom.

That certainly isn't the case for a male and female capybara pair at the High Park Zoo in Toronto.

The giant rodents escaped on May 24 and eluded capture for weeks, with only occasional sightings on the zoo's grounds. Then on June 12, one of them was caught, but the other is still on the lam, believed to be roaming around the zoo.

The capybaras have been dubbed "Bonnie and Clyde" on social media by the public who have been eagerly following their exploits.

"We are waiting to find out if we have Bonnie or Clyde," the zoo reported on its Facebook page. "Will let you know, with young capybara it is not that easy to tell."

Closely related to guinea pigs, capybaras are the largest rodents in the world, weighing sometimes as much as 150 pounds.

The capybaras had been spotted hanging around their enclosure where zoo staff have been lingering, hoping to entice them back in with fruits and vegetables. But calls have also come in from the public, placing the animals all over the 400-acre park.

"We received many reports today of sightings to 311 as far north as Finch and east to Scarborough," said a post on the zoo's Facebook page. "These we believe were groundhogs. The difference is when a capybara walks, you can see their legs."

The zoo has cautioned visitors not to approach the remaining fugitive as capybaras can be quite skittish. Instead, people are asked to call 311.

The duo hadn't been at the zoo very long before they escaped. They had just been brought to High Park as a mating pair when they made their getaway, Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette told the Bloor West Villager.

“We suspect they went east out of the zoo because of the creek. They love water. They can stay underwater for five hours — as long as their nostrils are out,” she said. “Really, the park is a big field day for them.”

Chewy, the park's resident capybara, has been helping by calling for his would-be new roommates. A local capybara named Willow, who often visits home and senior centers, has also brought in to aid the search.

Doucette said there's some good to come from this high-profile escape. Before the adventure, she estimated that probably 90 percent of Toronto's residents had no idea what a capybara was. But social media has kept the story alive and people have shown great interest in the animals.