Toronto Zoo for Sale

Toronto Zoo logo by Loozrboy
Toronto Zoo logo by Loozrboy

After lengthy debates, quarrels, and negotiations, Toronto city councillors decided to give the green light to a proposed version of the city’s budget that would come into effect in January 2012. Faced with a mounting budget deficit, Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford decided for massive cuts of the city spending in a pursuit to bridge a scary $774 million dollar budget gap. Services provided by the city and enjoyed by Torontonians will be eliminated or trimmed over the next year. Some of the approved cuts include selling off three city-owned theatres and stopping handing out tags allowing people to toss extra bags of garbage when necessary. However, it is the decision to sell off the Toronto Zoo that is stirring the most emotion.

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Toronto Zoo by Derekp
Toronto Zoo by Derekp

Critics of the privatization point out that it’s irresponsible to hazard with the zoo as there is no assurance that the new investor will be able to handle or rationalize the current operating costs, which run up as high as $11 million. More than 268 full-time positions and 330 part-time and seasonal staff jobs could be in danger. Furthermore, so far, there is more or less no plan or notion for how the actual takeover of the zoo will take place, naturally raising worries among stakeholders.

On the other hand, many do not see the future of the zoo in such grey shades. Although the uncertainty about future developments always brings concerns, there is no reason to expect the changes to be negative. Shifting responsibility for running the zoo to the private sphere may attract new donors and make the zoo a more flexible and modern institution, responding more efficiently to visitors’ needs.

Toronto Zoo 2011 by Pat Keri
Toronto Zoo by Pat & Keri

As more than 1.4 million visitors attend the Toronto zoo each year, 33 per cent of whom are children, potential investors would be foolish not to take advantage of the potential and keep improving the zoo’s services. Creating new attractions and enlarging the fun zones of the area would certainly usher in the cash flow that the city seemed unable to produce. Mayor Rob Ford even hinted at potential buyers wishing to turn the Zoo into a theme park.

The authorities’ decision apparently met with approval among the Toronto Zoo board members. “The city should not be in the business of running a zoo,” said Joe Torzsok, chair of the Toronto Zoo board. He added that there is virtually no need for the Zoo to be managed by the city of Toronto.

3 Responses

  1. Sandra McAuslan

    I have just read in the latest issue of Canadian Geographic magazine of the City of Toronto’s decision to possibly sell the Toronto Zoo. I used to live in Toronto and have always loved and appreciated the Zoo. Until 4 years ago, I also lived in the Vancouver area. The Vancouver Zoo simply cannot compare with the one in Toronto – it is privately owned and it is a mess! It also has a bad reputation – they don’t take care of the animals properly – recently 2 giraffes died within days of each other and only when faced with increasing public pressure did they finally build a proper facility for the baby hippo who is now no longer a baby! It would be unthinkable if the Toronto Zoo ended up like the one in Vancouver which, in fact, has lost its official status as a zoo. It would be a very sad day in my life if the Toronto Zoo were to actually be sold. If Toronto officials feel that the City of Toronto should not be running a zoo, who do they have in mind? Despite the cost, the City has always done an excellent job and I cannot help but wonder if there is anyone who could do it better.

    • Sandra,

      Thanks for the comment, I really do hope that the city won’t let go of the ZOO, it’s one of my favorite places in Toronto! I also have the feeling that a private company wouldn’t make a very good job at managing the ZOO, the managers would have to be highly motivated not to turn the ZOO into a money-making amusement park. Maybe the city could hand it over to a non-for-profit, but that would need a lot of support from Torontonians.

  2. Donna O'Connor

    I can’t believe that Toronto and its citizens would even consider let alone allow such an idea as selling the Toronto Zoo to happen – at the expensive of the animals! Indeed, should the zoo be bought by a private investor you can bet your dollar the animals will certainly suffer, if not die. The Vancouver Zoo is a good example of what can go wrong when a Zoo is placed in the hands of private investors, especially those that are only interested in profit and not the animals. The animals die!!!!!!

    Shame on all those in Toronto who voted this buffoon (Rob Ford) in as Mayor.

    Should such a horrible transaction occur, then I call on all those in Toronto to keep a vigilant eye on what begins to happen at the Zoo. Contact Zoo Check Canada if you suspect any wrong doing.

    More importantly, Citizens of Toronto fight for the animals and keep the Toronto Zoo under the care of the city.

    Thank you,



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