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3 Things I Learned at the High Park Zoo

The best thing about the city of Toronto is that on any given day, there’s always about a hundred things to see and do. Even better for the money savvy, a lot of those things are free -- and “free” is a college student’s favourite word. With that in mind, I visited the free-admission High Park Zoo to see some strange animals, and here were my three main takeaways:

3. The Emu Is A Frightening Creature

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Now, this cousin to the ostrich may look adorable in a still photograph, but in motion, the emu can sometimes be absolutely terrifying. First of all, they can grow to be a little over six feet tall, meaning they’re possibly even taller than you. They’re able to contort their elongated neck in weird ways, and have feet with three toes that look as if they could belong to a dinosaur. Finally, when startled -- like when barked at by a zoo visitor’s Bull Terrier, for example -- the emu’s run is equal parts “don’t trifle with me” and “get the heck out of my way”.

Which isn’t to say that the big bird is all that scary, just a little unusual. The emu certainly wasn’t anything like I would have imagined it to be, and yet it still has its charms. Either way, be sure to visit them, as they’re quite fascinating and a fast favourite.

2. Reindeer Actually Exist 

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The Western holiday legend of Santa Claus tells of a conditionally generous old man with a big white beard, who lives at the arctic North Pole and flies through the sky on a sled pulled by magic reindeer. Growing up in Canada, it’s not uncommon to witness the occasional deer at the roadside, but some might assume that the reindeer is a creature confined to the popular Christmas myth.

Not so! The reindeer is as real as it gets. Some of the confusion could be due to the fact that the animal goes by a different name in Canada -- the caribou. “Ohhhhh, okaaayyy” you may have said as you read that last sentence, nodding assuredly. Yeah, they’re real! Pretty cool, huh? So be sure to stop by and say hello to the reindeer to see for yourself that these animals are not just the stuff of legends.

1. The Zoo’s World Famous Capybaras Might Be Getting Tired Of All The Attention 

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When the two large rodents, named Bonnie and Clyde, escaped from their pen last year and into High Park itself, they received a ton of media attention and won a legion of adoring fans. And now that the capybaras have just given birth to three pups, their popularity has only grown, so it was no surprise that their pen had attracted the largest crowd. However, what was a surprise was that the creatures were nowhere in sight!

Before we put out a search party for the family of fugitives, rest assured that they were just hiding out in their wooden enclosure, which is due to be upgraded soon. Maybe they’re sick of all the fame, or maybe -- more realistically -- they were just relaxing away from prying eyes. It just wasn’t the right day to see the capybaras running around, doing all of their cute rodent things, but maybe that’s just one more reason to visit High Park Zoo again in the future.

By Sean Madigan