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Toronto

Where are ya, capybara? Zoo's elusive rodents at large in Toronto

The sole remaining capybara of Toronto's High Park Zoo looked despondent Wednesday, staring blankly at visitors, as the search for his two missing furry compatriots entered its second day.

The tropical rodents, a male and a female, made a daring escape Tuesday morning while zoo employees were trying to introduce the breeding couple to its new enclosure.

Chewy, a male capybara, seemingly played no role in the escape scheme and was left behind by the two fugitives.

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Native to Central and South America, capybara are the world's largest rodent species – think of a guinea pig as big as a medium-sized dog. Their name, which comes from the language of Brazil's Tupi people, means "grass-eater."

Capybaras elude capture despite sighting in Toronto’s High Park

2:13

Around 30 city workers are searching for the animals, combing undergrowth and keeping a lookout for any signs of movement in waterways. Since capybara are semi-aquatic mammals, they would have no trouble hiding underwater, according to Megan Price, a spokesperson for the Toronto parks department.

"We feel that if they are quite scared, as we imagined they must be, that they might be hiding under the water. They can get right under the water with just their noses sticking out." she said.

Because one of the capybaras was sighted near the enclosure last night, park officials are now planning to set up a stakeout in front of the pens to catch the runaways. They will also try to lure the pair with food and by playing recorded capybara barks – a low, grunt-like clicking noise.

"We'll have a couple of staff hiding in trucks with nets to try to get the sting operation going," Ms. Price said. "Hopefully, they'll be lured out by the food."

At the site of the breakout Wednesday afternoon, Toronto Mayor John Tory expressed confidence that the animals would be reunited soon. "We just want to get them back home," Mr. Tory said.

As herbivores, the missing capybaras are docile, skittish creatures and pose no threat to vistors. Park visitors are encouraged to report any sightings to city authorities and to keep dogs leashed at all times.

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Social media was awash with comments praising the capybaras, with many users congratulating the animals for their bold dash to freedom.

The High Park Zoo had another well-publicized animal fugitive saga last summer, when a peacock escaped its enclosure and explored residential neighbourhoods before returning to the zoo on its own.

Escaped peacock on the loose in Toronto

0:16

Like their feathered predecessor, the escaped capybara had their own in-character parody Twitter account within hours of their escape.


With a report from Globe staff


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