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, the Americas, Australasia, Eurasia and the Canadian Domain. Animals are displayed indoors in tropical pavilions and outdoors in naturalistic environments, with viewing at many levels. It also has a children Zoo, Waterside Theatre and a Splash Island. The zoo is 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 (for more information scroll down to the Toronto Zoo Projects).
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. 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 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 innovative designs to enhance not only the public's viewing experience but also 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 travelled 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 and replaced by the Zoomobile, a tractor-pulled ride.
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 and again in 1996), and White Lions (1995).
In 1987, the zoo opened the Maya Temple exhibit and Wolf Woods exhibit. In 1988 the zoo's new reptile exhibits completed in Australasia Pavilion, and Opening of Americas Pavilion Primate Wing. Caracal lynx exhibit opens in 1989, the year after the Spotted-neck otter exhibit opens.
In 1993, the Red Panda exhibit re-opens and the Malayan Woods Pavilion opens. Sumatran tigers arrive in 1994. Naked mole rats go on exhibit in 1996. Komodo dragons become 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 exhibit, the largest expansion in its history. In 2000, 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 waterpark, opened in 2002. This was followed by an open-air theatre 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, including the Zoo. The Zoo’s attendance is slowly recovering from the after-effects of these events.
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 18 2007, Dinosaurs Alive opened, which featured animated dinosaurs models. This exhibit closed in October 2007.
On August 21, 2007, the Polar bear, Llama, Dall's Sheep and Mara exhibits were closed for the new Tundra Trek which is part of the North Zoo Redevelopment Site. The Tundra Trek is slated to open in 2009, the Tundra Trek is nearing completion, but with much more to be done! Updates at a later date.
On May 16, 2008, Stingray Bay opened. This interactive exhibit allows the public to touch, feel, and feed live stingrays. Stingray Bay is scheduled to come back next summer, according to the 2008 operating budget and they will also be bringing sharks.
Toronto Zoo Vision: The Toronto Zoo is Canada's premier Zoo, known for its interactive education and conservation activities. As a unique wildlife experience, we inspire people to live in ways that promote the well being of the natural world.
Zoo Diaries is an intense look at life behind the scenes at the Toronto Zoo. One of the world’s biggest, the Toronto Zoo has expanded its longstanding role as an exhibitor to devote more of its resources to protecting endangered species. Each episode of Zoo Diaries focuses 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.