The Toronto Zoo remains a top destination for both plant and animal lovers, with an expansive plant collection that can be currently seen both in all the indoor tropical pavilions and outdoors along the over 10 km of walking trails. Here at your Toronto Zoo we are committed to connecting people, animals and conservation science to fight extinction. In most recent plant news, our horticulture team started to notice the growth and development of one of our corpse plants (Amorphophallus titanium). Some may remember that back in September of 2018 our beloved corpse flower, Pablo Pewcasso, bloomed and drew many people from far and wide. We have been excited to watch the journey of this newest corpse flower — Vincent van Gross, with it’s most fowl smell, as it came into bloom.
As with so many, we have had an unexpected and challenging year. On March 14, 2020 we had to close our doors to our guests, as supported by Toronto Public Health in order to help halt the spread of COVID-19 in the community. During this time, Zoo staff were committed to ensuring the safety and well being of our 5,000 animals that call the Zoo home, and the health and safety of our staff and volunteers. While closed to the public, we quickly acted to enhance our online engagement as this was the only way the public could stay connected to our Zoo. We took this opportunity to offer our guests a look at the work being done behind-the-scenes with daily Facebook Lives, which we still have available every day at 1:00 pm. We also provided virtual resources such as online live “Zoo School To You” classroom lessons twice weekly, including activity sheets for kids, and multiple virtual camp outs, where our guests could visit with us for the long weekends and participate in fun at-home activities. Our social media and online storytelling grew by leaps and bounds, with even more animal photos and videos to keep our guests connected to their favourite animals, including special enrichment feedings for our animals and even a Toronto Star live cam to give the public real-time access to our lemurs, gorillas and giraffes.
Our giraffes were extra special this year as our new baby, cheekily named as “Baby Long Legs”, was able to be seen on live camera before we reopened to the public. While we would always agree that online isn’t the same as seeing our amazing animals in real-life, it was certainly the next best thing! Since then, she has been named “Amani” meaning “peace”, which was announced during a Facebook Live to the delight of thousands of viewers. We now have a new way you can see Amani from home with a “Twitch Live Cam” where you can actually take control of the camera to follow her throughout her habitat!
As a not-for-profit charitable organization, the Toronto Zoo relies heavily on revenue from admissions, parking, events, programs and onsite sales, so it was a financially hard time to remain closed for so long. We are grateful for the outpouring of support from our community that we have received during this difficult time, we could not be where we are without you. With the help of the community we were able to raise over $500,000 through our Zoo Food for Life campaign. As the province began to move into Phase 1 of reopening the economy, the Toronto Zoo had to improvise and create a solution that would assist with operating in a safe manner while still inviting guests back through its doors. This is when the Toronto Zoo decided to launch the NEW Scenic Safari. This is a tour around the Zoo from the comfort of your own car with your very own Zoo Keeper commentary to learn about animals as you pass through the variety of Zoogeographic areas! The experience offers the chance to see the Zoo from a whole new perspective as you drive on staff-only roads, through the Zoo site, and even through the lion cave! With animals at every turn, it is like you are on a real-life African safari – only this time, with a variety of animals from around the world.
As the City of Toronto, following the guidelines from the Government of Ontario and Toronto Public Health, started to enter Stage 2, we were able to reopen our gates back to our members and valued guests on June 27. The Toronto Zoo has implemented strict new guidelines and restrictions to ensure the safety of guests, staff, volunteers and of course animals. With some designated one-way routes throughout the Zoo and paths marked to create distance between guests, it allows you to see all your favourite animals at the Zoo while ensuring a safe distance from others. Hand sanitizing stations have been set up at multiple points throughout the walkable paths and face coverings are mandatory while indoors & at certain outdoor animal viewing areas. Pre-booked time slots are required for both Zoo Guests and Zoo Members in order to walk through the Zoo to minimize the number of guests at the front entrance and to assist with social distancing between groups. Tickets are ONLY available online and are not sold on site.
Now, as we are continuing to adapt to this new COVID-19 phase, we are looking at options to provide our guests with new opportunities to enjoy the Zoo while adhering strictly to important safety measures. This is why we are excited to announce our NEW Wild Tails Family Campsite, where you can bring your own camping gear and have a sleepover at the Zoo! Guests will enjoy a unique self-guided camping adventure including an evening of Zoo exploration, after-hours access to our African Savanna and Canadian Domain regions, dinner, and your own exclusive campsite where you’ll sleep under the stars at the Zoo! Our Wild Encounters, a unique, behind-the-scenes opportunity to meet some of our resident animal favourites, are also back in a new limited capacity. This year we offer smaller groups the chance to get up-close and personal with some of our animals like the river hippos, penguins, giraffes and kangaroos. As with many new regulations, masks are to be worn for the whole duration of this experience and tickets should be booked in advance to avoid disappointment.
Lastly, we are getting ready to launch our very successful enchanted night walk experience again for a second season. Terra Lumina will be coming back this August to provide you and your family with the opportunity to enjoy the summer nights for a little longer. We will be making an announcement when we are ready for launch on our website: http://www.torontozoo.com/