The Main Entrance to the Toronto Zoo
|Date opened||August 15, 1974|
|Location||Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Land area||287 hectares (710 acres)|
|Number of animals||5,000+|
|Number of species||460+|
The Toronto Zoo is a zoo located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Its original founder was Mr. Hugh A. Crothers, a successful Toronto industrialist who became the first Chairman of the Metro Toronto Zoological Society in 1966. It opened August 15, 1974, as the Metropolitan Toronto Zoo (often shortened to Metro Toronto Zoo) and is owned by the City of Toronto; the word "Metropolitan" was dropped from its name when the cities of the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto were amalgamated to form the present-day city of Toronto in 1998. The zoo is located near the Rouge River, along the western border of Rouge Park in city's east end former borough of Scarborough.
Encompassing 287 hectares (710 acres), the Toronto Zoo is the largest zoo in Canada. It is divided into seven zoogeographic regions: Indo-Malaya, Africa, Americas, Tundra Trek, Australasia, Eurasia, and the Canadian Domain. Some animals are displayed indoors in tropical pavilions and outdoors in what would be their naturalistic environments, with viewing at many levels. It also has areas such as the Kids Zoo, Waterside Theatre, and Splash Island. It has one of the most taxonomically diverse collection of animals on display of any zoo, is currently home to over 5,000 animals (including invertebrates and fish) representing over 450 species.
The zoo is open every day of the year except December 25.
- 1 History
- 2 Exhibits
- 3 Conservation
- 4 Notable births
- 5 Controversies
- 6 Media
- 7 Future development
- 8 Gallery
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
In 1888, the Riverdale Zoo opened in Toronto, as a typical example of a zoo during this time, with animals displayed as curiosities in dark cages and cramped enclosures.
In 1963, a private citizen's brief to build a new zoo was introduced by Mr. Hugh Crothers to the Chairman of the Council of the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto, William Allen. Mr. Allen asked Mr. Crothers to head up a committee to investigate the feasibility of a new zoo. By 1966, a group of eleven people became The Metro Toronto Zoological Society with Mr. Crothers as the first Chairman.
Plans for the new zoo
Original plans were to have to park located at the Don Mills area, but the site was later used to create the E.T. Seton Park. In 1966, Mr. Crothers and the 10 other citizens met at City Hall to form the Metropolitan Toronto Zoological Society. In 1967, the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto approved the Rouge Park site in Scarborough for a new zoo. The following year, a feasibility study on the new zoo was produced by architect Raymond Moriyama. In 1969, a master plan was created by Johnson Sustronk Weinstein and Associates which was approved by the Zoological Society. Construction of the new zoo began in 1970. On August 15, 1974, the Metropolitan Toronto Zoo was open to the public. The zoo increased from the original Riverdale Zoo's 3 hectares (7.4 acres) to 287 hectares (710 acres), and is now one of the largest zoos in the world. The Zoo introduced some designs to enhance the public's viewing experience and the animals' living comfort. Animals were displayed in naturalized environments and grouped according to their zoogeographic region. The old zoo was converted into an urban farm called Riverdale Farm, which opened in 1978.
In 1976, the Zoo opened the Canadian Domain Ride, a monorail that traveled into the Zoo's Canadian Domain area, located in the Rouge Valley. The ride ceased operations in July 1994 after an accident. The monorail has since been dismantled. The current Zoomobile uses five (4-car set) Chance Coach Sunliner trams.
Between 1980 and 1984, several new exhibits were added to the zoo, including gaur, a children's zoo (Littlefootland) that does not exist anymore, and a new indoor habitat for African elephants, snow leopards and the Indian Rhinoceros Pavilion, as well as, the official opening of the Zoomobile.
In 1985, Qing Qing and Quan Quan – a pair of giant pandas, on loan for three months from the Peoples' Republic of China were displayed at the Zoo. The Zoo broke all previous attendance records, as thousands of visitors came to see these rare animals. Over the years, the Zoo has presented other rare or unusual animals, including: golden monkeys (1986), koalas (1988, 1996 and again in 2002), and white lions (1995, and again in 2012).
In 1987, the zoo opened the Maya Temple exhibit and Wolf Woods exhibit. In 1988, the zoo completed new reptile exhibits in the Australasia Pavilion and the Primate Wing in the Americas Pavilion. Caracal lynx exhibit opened in 1989, the year after the spotted-neck otter exhibit opened.
In 1993, the red panda exhibit re-opened and the Malayan Woods Pavilion opened. The sumatran tigers arrived in 1994. Naked mole-rats went on exhibit in 1996. Komodo dragons become a feature exhibit in 1997.
In 1998, with the amalgamation of the Metro Municipalities, the Zoo was officially renamed the Toronto Zoo. That same year, the Zoo opened the Africa Savannah exhibits, the largest expansion in its history. In 2001, the zoo added eyelash vipers to its collection and opened the Gorilla Rainforest, the world’s largest indoor habitat for western lowland gorilla. The zoo's 'Splash Island', an educationally-themed water play area, opened in 2002. This was followed by an open-air amphitheatre in 2003 and the 'Kid's Zoo' in 2004 featuring exhibits geared to guests 10 and under.
The SARS crisis in 2003 had a devastating effect on the tourism industry in Toronto, however the Zoo fared well with local residents supporting the zoo by visiting often. The Zoo’s attendance has recovered well with many record-breaking annual attendance numbers since then.
In November 2006, the Toronto Zoo temporarily closed the Australasia Pavilion for redevelopment. The pavilion underwent two years of construction, resulting in new exhibits including a Great Barrier Reef area (where the former Edge of Night exhibit used to be). The Great Barrier Reef exhibit consists of a large seven-metre-long community tank featuring sharks, damselfish, and angel fish. There is also a lion fish, as well as enlarged seahorse tanks. Coral and moon jelly fish have also been added to the collection – both firsts for the Toronto Zoo. This pavilion reopened on May 16, 2008.
In May 2007, Dinosaurs Alive opened, which featured 18 animated dinosaur models and life-size skeleton replicas. It featured the largest T-Rex in North America. This exhibit was enjoyed by over 600,000 visitors and was included with zoo admission. The exhibit closed in October 2007.
On August 21, 2007, the polar bear, llama, Dall sheep and mara exhibits were closed for the construction of the new 10-acre (4.0 ha) Tundra Trek area. This project was the first phase of the North Zoo Site Redevelopment Project. Tundra Trek features new exhibits for the popular polar bear, reindeer, Arctic fox, Arctic wolf and snowy owl. Coming back to take up residence in the new polar bear exhibit were 3 orphaned polar bears initially raised at the zoo and named by the community: Aurora, Nakita, and Inukshuk. The Tundra Trek opened on August 1, 2009.
On May 16, 2008, Stingray Bay opened for the first time. This interactive exhibit allowed the public to touch, feel, and feed live stingrays. It returned several times but closed for good on October 8, 2012.
In September 2008, the Toronto Zoo Board approved a motion to dissolve the Toronto Zoo Foundation and bring fundraising and development in-house. All parties agreed to the transfer of existing donor funds to the Toronto Community Foundation.
On August 15, 2009, the Toronto Zoo celebrated its 35-year anniversary. During that weekend the public got to learn about some of the zoos oldest residents, including; Marg the demoiselle crane and Monty the West African dwarf crocodile.
On September 9, 2009, the south side of the African Rainforest Pavilion was closed for construction. During construction, one of the mandrills scheduled to move into the new area died, and the rest were moved to another zoo. The pavilion opened in early 2011, with new exhibits for pygmy hippos, red river hogs, nile softshell turtle, and lemurs instead of the mandrills, as well as a variety of exhibits for fish and reptiles.
The Dr. Schofield Memorial/Asian Gardens opened the first phase in June 2010, and includes a statue erected in Dr. Schofield's honor.
On May 21, 2011, the black-footed penguin exhibit (formerly the South African cape fur seal exhibit) opened to the public. This exhibit once was the old South African cape fur seal exhibit and it was closed in 2010 and modified to house black-footed penguins.
In April 2012, the zoo lost its accreditation in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums due to a disagreement regarding sending its three elephants to PAWS, an animal sanctuary in California that is not AZA accredited. The zoo began looking for a new accredited home for its elephants in October 2011, but the Toronto city council voted to send the elephants to California instead, ignoring the recommendations of the zoo's professional staff. The zoo may re-apply for AZA accreditation in March 2013. The three elephants were transported to the PAWS sanctuary in California on October 16, 2013. On Monday, March 25, 2013, two giant pandas Er Shun (female) and Da Mao (male) arrived at the zoo, with their exhibit (the refurbished Amur tiger exhibit) opening to the public on May 18. The bears are on a 10-year Canada tour from the Chengdu Panda Base and Chongqing Zoo, residing in Toronto from 2013 to 2017 and at the Calgary Zoo from 2018 to 2022.
The Toronto Zoo is divided up into seven different geographic regions. Each region showcases animals and plants from that area of the world.
The Indo-Malayan area contains two pavilions that exhibit plants and animals from the southern and southeast Asia. There are four outdoor exhibits in this area. Featured animals in this area include Indian rhinos, Malayan tapirs, lion-tailed macaques, Sumatran orangutans, Mandarin ducks, spiny turtles, rare Sumatran tigers, and various freshwater fish. The Malayan Woods Pavilion houses butterflies, whistling ducks, red-tailed green rat snakes, and clouded leopards.
Opened in 1998, the African Savanna became the zoo's largest expansion in history. The African Savanna combined with the African Rainforest Pavilion encompasses most of the southern third of the zoo. The African Savanna featured species include lions, Grévy's zebras, olive baboons, greater kudus, sable antelopes, white rhinoceroses, river hippopotamuses, spotted hyenas and masai giraffe. The African Rainforest Pavilion holds the world’s largest indoor gorilla exhibit, as well as dozens of other more sensitive African species, including meerkats, red river hogs, West African dwarf crocodiles, and pygmy hippopotamuses. The south side of the African Rainforest Pavilion underwent extensive renovations in 2009 and 2010, and opened in the spring of 2011. The south side of the pavilion is completely refurbished and showcases ring-tailed lemurs.
The Toronto Zoo also received three white African lions in 2012 to replace the single white lioness the zoo had since 1996. These lions share time in their exhibit with the zoo's more "normally-coloured" African lions.
The Canadian Domain is situated in the Rouge Valley. The animals in this area will all be regrouped onto the table land. The Canadian Domain was built in accompaniment with the Canadian Domain Ride, which exhibited North American animals in their native environment. Featured species in this area include, elk, bison, moose, bald eagle, cougar, lynx, raccoon, and grizzly bear. The Toronto Zoo is currently participating in a breeding program for the Canadian bison. Canadian Domain is slated to be moved onto the zoo's tableland in coming years and renamed Canadian Wilderness.
This area of the zoo houses animals from both North and South America. Animals include several species of monkeys. The Americas Pavilion displays a wide variety of amphibians, reptiles, fish, and insects. Some of its most popular residents are the common marmosets, golden lion tamarins, Linnaeus's two-toed sloths, American alligators, beavers, river otters and a giant Pacific octopus. The Mayan Temple Ruins features jaguars, capybaras, macaws, spider monkeys, and American flamingos. The Americas Pavilion houses the majority of the zoo's reptile and amphibian collection, as well as a large number of its invertebrates, and was the designated area for the 2008 Year of the Frog conservation project. In 2006, a two-toed sloth was born; this was the first birth of this species at the zoo. The Americas Pavilion will undergo a transition as per the North Zoo Site Redevelopment from the Americas Pavilion to the Tropical American Pavilion. Some Americas animals will be relocated with this redevelopment project.
The Australasian Pavilion features animals from the Australian mainland, as well as surrounding islands. Featured species in this area include thorny devil stick insects, a variety of small Australian reptiles, Western grey kangaroos, wallabies, emus, southern hairy-nosed wombats, kookaburras, red-tailed black cockatoos, Matschie's tree-kangaroos, and Komodo dragons. The Komodo dragons were donated to the zoo as a gift from the President of Indonesia. This pavilion once had an "Edge of Night" section to highlight crepuscular and nocturnal marsupials, but this was later converted into the Great Barrier Reef exhibit featuring sea horses, a live coral and jellyfish tank, lion fish, brownbanded bamboo sharks, and a 7-metre (23 ft) long community tank. The exhibits inside the pavilion also received facelifts during the transition, including and outdoor area for the hairy-nosed wombats and swamp wallabies.
Eurasia is the oldest and most quiet part of the zoo. The area's redesign was completed in 2014. The featured species in this section of the zoo are snow leopards, Przewalski's horses, red pandas, and Bactrian camels. With the area's redesign to the Eurasia Wilds several species are now only viewable from the Zoomobile, including Barbary apes, dholes, yak, and mouflon, as well as the main herd of Przewalski's horses.
Since May 18, 2013, the area has included two giant pandas: Er Shun (female) and Da Mao (male). With the pandas' arrival, the zoo has refurbished its seasonal attraction area into an extensive educational centre - the Giant Panda Interpretive Centre. In 2014, after her first estrus, Er Shun was artificially inseminated - the first such procedure performed on a panda in Canada. No baby was born in 2014 and it was believed that Er Shun experienced a pseudopregnancy, a phenomenon common in giant pandas.
After the closing of some of the Americas animal exhibits in 2007, the Tundra Trek opened on August 1, 2009. This area became the sixth region of the zoo, and showcases a variety of Arctic animals including reindeer, polar bears, snowy owls, snow geese, Arctic foxes, and Arctic wolves. The new state-of-the-art exhibits are larger in order to encourage breeding. Educational theming emphasizes the lives of the Inuit and the effects of climate change.
This area is geared towards children by featuring educational themes and exhibits. The most prominent area is a children's water park, Splash Island, which features landscaping and themed objects depicting the three states of water: solid (ice), liquid, and gas. Exhibits are grouped around variously themed groups of aquatic animals, including rivers, lakes, and oceans. Waterside Theatre is an open-air venue where live demonstrations of a variety of animals are shown, including alpacas, goats, falcons, turkey vultures, hawks, skunks, ferrets, and hornbills. A third area, the Kids Zoo, consists of a variety of animals that children can interact with. The Discovery Zone also hosts the Stingray Bay exhibit for its duration.
It was originally known as the Zellers Discovery Zone, named after discount department store sponsor Zellers, which later became defunct in 2013.
The Toronto Zoo makes considerable effort to conserve endangered species from around the world with the help of other accredited zoos. Captive breeding is often considered one of the most difficult and elusive rewards of captive animal care, but the Toronto Zoo's efforts have been met with much success, and even resulted in the re-introduction of many species.
Some of the conservation initiatives that the Toronto Zoo has participated in are as follows:
- The Toronto Zoo was the first zoo to establish a captive-breeding program for black-footed ferrets with the goal of releasing them back into their wild habitat and, after years of successful breeding, had released more than 120 animals by 2011. This included re-introducing the ferrets, which had been extinct in the wild, to Saskatchewan's Grasslands National Park beginning in 2009.
- The zoo has rescued polar bears from the wild: two in 2001, later named Aurora and Nikita and one in 2003, later named Inukshuk.
- In 2008, the Toronto Zoo participated in 2008 Year of the Frog, where researchers were sent to study a deadly fungus causing problems to amphibians and reptiles worldwide.
- The Toronto Zoo has acted and continues to act in the captive breeding, and re-introduction into the wild of critically endangered and otherwise threatened Canadian species, including the Vancouver Island marmot, loggerhead shrike, and Blanding's turtle, as well as Great Lakes fishes. The zoo also runs a program for habitat preservation within the Great Lakes Region, focusing on the protection of endemic species of freshwater mussels. In the past the zoo contributed heavily to increasing the numbers of threatened species, including the wood bison and the trumpeter swan.
- The Toronto Zoo has actively contributed to international conservation efforts and reintroduction programs, including for the Puerto Rican crested toad, and for fish in the African Great Lakes (including the Singidia tilapia, or ngege).
- The zoo has bred additional rare Ontario species such as the redside dace and eastern massasauga rattlesnake.
- One zoo staff member has been key in preservation of critically endangered Malagasy freshwater fish species, both at the zoo and in Madagascar.
The Toronto Zoo has been collecting and recycling cell phones since 2006. In 2010, it was awarded the distinction of being the top cell phone recycler out of the Eco-Cell's 175 participating wildlife organizations in [North America]. Other participating wildlife organizations include the San Diego Zoo and the Philadelphia Zoo. Coltan is a mineral ore mined and refined in central Africa for metals used in the cell phone industry. This unregulated mining industry has a dramatic impact on the region's biodiversity. Recycling cell phones helps to preserve the critical Lowland gorilla rainforest habitat in Africa by decreasing the demand for these minerals. This is of particular interest to the Toronto Zoo as its gorilla habitat has expanded with the addition of a newly born baby gorilla. The Toronto Zoo's cell phone recycling program is composed of two parts: Retrocell  is the zoo's official cell phone refurbisher and the Ontario Electronic Stewardship Program processes the remainder of the phones that are collected by the Toronto Zoo.
In addition, the Toronto Zoo also participates in, and has been a key centre for, the Species Survival Plans of dozens of species, maintaining healthy captive populations of animals which may one-day be re-introduced to their former homes. Some notable SSP species the zoo has successfully bred over the years include the western lowland gorilla, Sumatran orangutan, golden lion tamarin, Sumatran tiger, Siberian tiger, snow leopard, cheetah, Przewalski's horse, Indian rhinoceros, Matschie's tree-kangaroo, African penguin, and Komodo dragon. The Toronto Zoo has bred hundreds of species, with many of these breedings being firsts for Canada, North America, and even the world.
In 2003, a Komodo dragon was hatched for the first time in Canada. In 2006, a Matschie's tree kangaroo was born, one of three born in North America in 2006 (New York Bronx Zoo, St. Louis Zoo and Toronto Zoo). Later named Noru, it was sent to the Lincoln Zoo, and was paired with a mate named Milla who gave birth to twins - a first for this species.
In 2004 two female West African dwarf crocodiles successfully hatched on October 1, the first hatching of this species in Canada. In September 2009, a male gorilla was born to Ngozi and Charles, later named Nassir.
Three Sumatran tigers were born at the zoo to parents Brytne and Rengat in 2003, and two more (Kali and Indah which mean "River" and "Beautiful" in the Indonesian language) in 2006. Also in 2006, three orangutans were born and named Jinnga, Kembali, and Budi through a TVOKids naming contest.
On June 5, 2007, two rare snow leopards were born, the first birth in thirteen years. Another snow leopard was born in 2009.
A mandrill named Mohawk was born at the Zoo in December 2008. The Toronto Zoo no longer displays mandrills.
Two Przewalski's horses, one male and one female, were born on June 22, 2007, the first birth in fifteen years. Three more Przewalski's horses were born in 2008 and another was born in 2009. In 2007, one male and one female Siberian tigers, were born. The zoo has also been very successful in breeding Bactrian camels, the most recent birth coming in 2014.
Through the weekend of September 26–27, 2015, the zoo's white lioness Makali gave birth to four cubs - the first pure-bred white lions born at the Toronto Zoo.
On October 13, 2015, Er Shun, the female giant panda gave birth to two cubs. This was this first successful reproduction of giant pandas in Canada. One was born at 3:31 AM and weighed 187.7 g and the other was born at 3:44 AM and weighed 115 g. At this very small size, the cubs chance of survival is low. Their genders are still unknown. As of November 13, at one month of age, the cubs were still healthy and growing. They will not be viewed to the public until the age of 5 months.
On November 30, 2009, Tara, the zoo's largest creature, died. She was found lying down when staff arrived in the morning and was unable to be raised to her feet. Tara was the third elephant in 14 months to die at the zoo and fourth in three years. The zoo has planned a major expansion of the zoo exhibit and indoor quarters, to accommodate the existing herd and any new elephants, perhaps the result of breeding. The Board of Management minutes from October 2009 indicate a concern that the condition of the elephant exhibit might cause the zoo to lose its Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) accreditation.
Elephant deaths preceding Tara's:
- June 2009: Tessa, knocked to the ground by another elephant, unable to stand unassisted after being raised to her feet by staff and equipment.
- September 2008: Tequila, cause of death not released. Autopsy
- July 2006: Patsy, euthanized due to long-term degenerative arthritis
In the days following Tara's death, both Zoocheck Canada and U.S.-based In Defence of Animals called for the zoo to close the exhibit and send the remaining three elephants to a sanctuary. Toronto city council endorsed this highly controversial decision. In September 2013 plans were finalized to move Toka, Thika and Iringa to a facility in California in October 2013 (after Thanksgiving) The three elephants were transported on land during a 50 hour long drive with stopovers. Iringa died on July 22, 2015 at the sanctuary in California.
- Zoo Diaries was a Canadian documentary television series which aired on Life Network. Its focus was on the relationship between the animals and their keepers, allowing viewers to experience what it is like to bond with some of the world’s most exotic creatures. There have been 74 episodes produced since 2000 by DocuTainment Productions. The first two seasons of the show were also released on DVD/VHS
- Undercover Boss took place in 2011 and was filmed at the Toronto Zoo with the CEO.
- North Zoo Redevelopment Project: (The animal listed in brackets may be getting new exhibits)
- Phase One: Tundra Trek. (Polar bears, Arctic wolves, and reindeer get new exhibits, as well as the addition of snowy owls, snow geese, and Arctic foxes.) Opened on August 1, 2009.
- Phase Two: Eurasia, the (Snow leopards will move into a new exhibit, and a new giant panda breeding centre will be opened.) Opened in October 2014.
- Phase Three: Mixed Wood/Boreal Forests (moose, wood bison, grizzly bears, and Vancouver Island marmots).
- Phase Four: Tropical Americas (the conversion of the Americas Pavilion to Tropical Americas).
- The zoo will bring back the panda exhibit for 2013, under an agreement with China that will have two giant pandas (Er Shun and Da Mao) at the Toronto Zoo for five years.
- Giraffe House Refurbishment.
- Wildlife Health Centre.
- New front entrance.
- Education centre.
- Orangutan Complex.
In 2011, the city started looking at the process of selling the zoo to a third party. This process was short lived with the city later deciding the zoo will remain an entity of the city.
In 2012, on a trade mission to China, it was announced that the Toronto Zoo and the Calgary Zoo would be lent two pandas from China for the span of ten years. The pandas will be in each zoo for equal amounts of time. The pandas, named Er Shun and Da Mao, arrived at the Toronto Zoo on March 25, 2013, greeted by prime minister Stephen Harper. Their exhibit opened on May 18, 2013.
- "Check Out Our Amazing Animals!". torontozoo.com. Toronto Zoo. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
- "Members' Directory, Accredited Institutions". caza.ca.org. CAZA. Retrieved 15 September 2012.
- "World Association of Zoos and Aquaria". waza.org. WAZA. Retrieved 15 September 2012.
- History of the zoo
- Vincent, Donovan (October 3, 2009). "$28,000 Panda Trip Gets Okay From Zoo". The Star (Toronto).
- "Media Kit - Sharks at Stingray Bay 2012" (PDF). Toronto Zoo. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
- "Toronto Zoo loses international accreditation". CBC News. April 18, 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-26.
- "Toronto Zoo Training Elephants for long haul to California". Toronto Star. September 28, 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
- "Australasia". torontozoo.com. Toronto Zoo. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
- Wingrove, Josh (3 December 2009). "Elephant's death a zoo". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). Retrieved 3 December 2009.
- Kupferman, Steve (2 December 2009). "When Elephants Die". The Torontoist (supplement to The Globe and Mail). Retrieved 3 December 2009.
- "Zoo elephant deaths spark call for shutdown". The Toronto Star. 3 December 2009. Retrieved 3 December 2009.
- The Star (Toronto) http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2011/05/12/elephants_to_leave_toronto_zoo.html. Missing or empty
- CBC News http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-zoo-elephants-to-head-south-after-thanksgiving-1.1858375. Missing or empty
- "Rob Ford: Buyers eyeing Toronto Zoo, theatres". CBC News. September 15, 2011.
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