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Toronto Zoo
Toronto zoo logo.png
Location Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Land area 287 hectares (710 acres)
Number of animals 5,000+
Number of species 500+
Memberships WAZA, AZA, CAZA

The Toronto Zoo is a zoo located in the Scarborough district of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It opened August 15, 1974 as the Metropolitan 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 merged to form the present-day City of Toronto. The zoo is located near the Rouge River.

Encompassing 287 hectares (710 acres), the Toronto Zoo is the third largest in the world. It is divided into six zoogeographic regions: Indo-Malaya, Africa, Americas, 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. The zoo is currently home to over 16,000 animals (including invertebrates and fish) representing over 491 distinct species. The Toronto Zoo is currently working on the North Zoo Redevelopment. This project will be completed in four phases.



The Main Entrance to the Toronto Zoo

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. Original plans were to have to park located at the Don Mills, Ontario area, but the site was later used to create the E.T. Seton Park. In 1966, eleven 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[1] 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 3 to nearly 300 hectares and is now one of the largest 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.

Between 1980 and 1984 several new exhibits were added to the Zoo, including Gaur, a children's zoo (Littlefootland) which 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, Qinn Qinn and Shayan – 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).

The Gorilla Rainforest exhibit.

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 opened the Gorilla Rainforest, the world’s largest indoor habitat for Lowland Gorillas and Eyelash vipers go on display. 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.

Splash Island is an educational water play area, themed to water: clouds to rain that flows into streams, rivers, lakes and oceans. The sprayers reflect animals typically found in these waterways.

The SARS crisis in 2003 had a devastating effect on the tourism industry in Toronto, however the Zoo fared well with local resident 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, damsel, 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 dinosaurs 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. This exhibit closed in October 2007.

On August 21, 2007, the polar bear, llama, Dall's Sheep and Mara exhibits were closed for the construction on the new 10-acre Tundra Trek. This project is the first phase of the North Zoo Site Redevelopment Project. The Tundra will open with 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 will be 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. The stingrays will be supported in 20-inch (510 mm) deep, 1,450-square-foot (135 m2), and 60,500 litre salt water habitat with waterfall and state-of-the-art life support system. Stingray Bay has been at the zoo in 2008 from May 16 to October 13 and in 2009 with the addition of nurse and bamboo sharks from May 15 to October 12. Stingray Bay is set to come back again in from May 22 to October 11, 2010.

In September 2008, Toronto Zoo Board approved the end of the contract with the Toronto Zoo Foundation and restructured to bring fundraising or development in-house. The Toronto Zoo Foundation decided to wrap-up and has been working with the Zoo to ensure the smooth transition of its assets to this new structure. All parties agreed to the transfer of existing donor funds to the Toronto Community Foundation. Longer term, the Zoo hopes to launch a fundraising capital campaign to support exciting education, conservation and exhibit projects as identified in the Zoo's overall master plan.

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 some of which include; 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. Pygmy Hippos, Mandrills, and Red River Hogs are just some of the animals slated to be getting new exhibit.

Regions of the Zoo

The Toronto Zoo is divided up into six 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 4 outdoor exhibits in this area. Featured animals in this area include Indian rhinos, Malayan tapirs, lion-tailed macaques, orangutans,mandarin ducks, spiny turtles, rare Sumatran tigers, and various freshwater fish . The Malayan Woods Pavilion houses butterflies, whistling ducks, red tailed green ratsnakes and clouded leopards. Three Sumatran tigers were born at the zoo to parents Brytne and Rengat in 2003 and two tigers again in 2006 and were later named Kali and Indah which mean "River" and "Beautiful" in the Indonesian language. Also in 2006, three orangutans were born named Jinnga, Kembali and Budi (They were named through a TVO Kids naming contest.)


Opened in 1998 the African Savanna became the zoos 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, zebras, olive baboons, greater kudus, sable antelopes, white rhinos, elephants, hippopotamuses, hyenas and masai giraffe. The African Rainforest Pavilion holds the world’s largest indoor gorilla exhibit, and also holds mandrills and pygmy hippopotamuses. In 2004 two female West African Dwarf Crocodiles successfully hatched on October 1, the first birth of this species in Canada. In September 2009 a male Gorilla was born to Ngozi and Charles, later named Nassir. A mandrill named Mohawk was born in December 2008. The South Side of the African Rainforest Pavilion is currently undergoing renovations.

Canadian Domain

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, muskox, bison, moose, cougar 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 re-named Canadian Wilderness


This area of the zoo houses animals from both North and South America, animals here include several species of monkeys. The American Pavilion displays a wide variety of amphibians, reptiles, fish, and insects. The Mayan Temple Ruins features jaguars, spider monkeys,and flamingos. The American Pavilion houses most of the zoo's reptile and amphibian collection 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 America Pavilion will undergo a transition per the North Zoo Site Redevelopment from the Americas Pavilion to the Tropical American Pavilion. Some American 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 yabbys, thorny devil stick insects, a variety of Australian reptiles, kangaroos, wallabies, emus, wombats, kookaburras, red-tailed black cockatoos, Matschie's tree kangaroos and Komodo dragons. 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, was sent to the Lincoln Zoo, and was paired with a mate named Milla who gave birth to two twins - a first for this species. 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, bamboo sharks and a seven meter (23 feet) 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. This section is planned to be redeveloped and expanded to include a variety of species. The featured species in this section of the zoo are Siberian tigers, snow leopards, Przewalski's wild horses, red pandas, Barbary apes, and Bactrian camels. In 2007, two rare snow leopards were born on June 5, this is the first birth in thirteen years as well as another birth in 2009, two Przewalski's Horse one male and female were born on June 22, the first birth in fifteen years and in 2008 three were born and 2009 one more was born. Also in 2007 one male and one female Siberian tigers, were born at the Toronto Zoo on July 13. In 2008 and 2009 two Bactrian camels were born.

Tundra Trek

After the closing of some American 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 wolf. The new state-of-the-art exhibits for all animals provides extra space for potential breeding, with this addition also comes numerous locations to learn about the lives of the Inuit and the effects of climate change.

Zellers Discovery Zone

This area consists of a water park titled Splash Island. It is an educational water park with variously-themed exhibits that teaches about the states-of-matter of water: solid (ice), liquid (water), and gas. Exhibits are grouped around variously themed groups of aquatic animals, as well as river, lake, and ocean themes. An open-air theatre titled Waterside Theatre. This is were the zoo demonstrates the natural characteristics of a variety of animals including alpacas, goats, falcons, turkey vultures, hawks, skunks, ferrets and hornbills. The third area is titled the Kids Zoo, this area consists of a variety of animals that children can interact with. Zeller's Discovery zone once housed Stingray Bay in 2008 it featured stingrays and in 2009 stingrays and sharks and again in 2010 with sharks, stingrays and horseshoe crabs.

Board of Management

  • Councillor Raymond Cho, Chair
  • Mr. Joe Torzsok, Vice Chair
  • Councillor Paul Ainslie
  • Councillor Glen De Baeremaeker
  • Dr. Ming-Tat Cheung
  • Councillor Mark Grimes
  • Councillor Norman Kelly
  • Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti
  • Dr. Dudley Williams
  • Ms. Sylvie Tessier
  • Ms. Cindy Yelle

Toronto Zoo Projects

Construction Projects:

  • North Zoo Redevelopment Project: (The animal listed in brackets may be getting new exhibits)
  • Phase One: Tundra Trek. Opened on August 1, 2009.
  • Phase Two: Eurasia (Panda Bears & Golden Monkeys were thought about in the Eurasian plan) To begin in 2010/2011.
  • Phase Three: Mixed Wood/Boreal Forests (Moose, Wood Bison, Grizzly Bears, Vancouver Island Marmots) To begin in 2011/2012.
  • Phase Four: Tropical Americas (The conversion of the Americas Pavilion to Tropical Americas)To begin in 2014/2015.
  • The South Side of the African Pavilion was closed on September 9, 2009. Pygmy Hippos, Red River Hogs, and Mandrill are slated to get new exhibits along with a variety of other animals. The project is scheduled for completion in early 2010.
  • Dr. Scholfield Memorial/Asian Gardens: to be started in 2010, a statue was erected in Dr. Scholfield's honor in February.
  • Toronto Zoo is currently (Feb 2008) starting the initial design phases for an expanded elephant complex, including a large indoor space where the herd can be together and on display year-round, and an expanded outdoor paddock. To begin in 2015. There is going to be a feasibility study to determine whether it would be worth the money to expand the elephant habitat and quadruple the space of the current exhibit, according to an elephant keeper.
  • Giraffe House Refurbishment to begin in 2010/2011
  • Animal Health Centre to begin in 2012/2013
  • Education centre to begin in 2014/2015
  • Orangutan Complex to begin in 2013/2014
  • Penguin Exhibit to begin in 2014 to 2018


The Toronto Zoo makes considerable effort to conserve endangered species from around the world with the help of other accredited zoos. Breeding captive wild animals is a difficult challenge, but has resulted in the re-introduction of many species.

One of the Toronto Zoo's Sumatran tigers.

Some of the conservation initiatives that the Toronto Zoo has participated in are as follows:

  • Throughout the zoos history they have breed and released over 120 black-footed ferrets in the wild. The Toronto Zoo was the first zoo to establish a captive-breeding program for these animals with the goal of releasing them back into their wild habitat.
  • The zoo has rescued polar bears from the wild. Two in 2001, later named Aurora & 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.
  • In 2009 the Toronto Zoo is participating in 2009 Year of the Gorilla to raise awareness on the problems facing gorillas.
  • 2010 is the Year of Biodiversity. The Toronto Zoo plans on raising awareness for the biodiversity of the Earth.

Elephant Deaths

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.[2] 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. 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.
  • July 2006: Patsy, euthanized due to long-term degenerative arthritis

In the days following Tara's death both Zoocheck Canada[3] and U.S.-based In Defence of Animals[4] called for the Zoo to close the exhibit and send the remaining three elephants to a sanctuary.

Zoo Diaries

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’s like to bond with some of the world’s most exotic creatures. There have been 74 episodes produced since 2000 by DocuTainment Productions.



  1. ^ History of the zoo
  2. ^ Wingrove, Josh (3 December 2009). "Elephant's death a zoo". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 3 December 2009. 
  3. ^ Kupferman, Steve (2 December 2009). "When Elephants Die". The Torontoist (supplement to The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 3 December 2009. 
  4. ^ "Zoo elephant deaths spark call for shutdown". The Toronto Star. 3 December 2009. Retrieved 3 December 2009. 

External links

Coordinates: 43°49′13.00″N 79°10′58.00″W / 43.82028°N 79.18278°W / 43.82028; -79.18278

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