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Good News for the High Park Zoo

The High Park Zoo, facing closure because of budget cuts, now has a private funding source that is expected to keep it open through 2012.

Barbary sheep photo by {a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/red_dotdesign/4470826150/sizes/z/in/photostream/”} red_dotdesign{/a} from the {a href=”http://www.flickr.com/groups/torontoist/”}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

A large crowd gathered at High Park’s Grenadier Cafe Monday night for an announcement by the Friends of the High Park Zoo of a major funding source for the embattled attraction—one that, mercifully, does not involve poo. The Honey Family Foundation has offered to match donations to the zoo’s charitable fund, dollar for dollar, up to $50,000 over the next three years.

The zoo is said to need $100,000 in donations to stay open for the rest of the year. As the zoo fund, administered by the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation, has already raised over $40,000, this latest donation will likely ensure that the animals will remain on display, at the very least, to the end of 2012.

The foundation—an organization whose name produced few Google hits prior to the announcement, and whose backers remain mysterious—contacted the office of councillor Sarah Doucette (Ward 13, Parkdale-High Park) last week through the Toronto Community Foundation, a group that connects donors with charitable initiatives.

Funding for the High Park Zoo, which costs an estimated $227,000 per year to operate, had been slashed during February’s city budget negotiations. The zoo had been slated for closure in June.

After the announcement, the crowd at Monday’s meeting suggested ideas for zoo improvement and fundraising. Among the money-generating ideas was a charity auction. Local MP Peggy Nash suggested a charity run. Members of the crowd were also asked to talk about their reasons for loving the High Park Zoo.

“I love the containment factor,” said one mother. “I have five kids, and I’ve never lost any of them in the zoo.”

Then, of course, there are the llamas.

“If you’ve never fed a llama, you have to,” said Doucette. “Their lips are like velvet!”

(Donors interested in contributing to the High Park Zoo fund may do so through the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation.)

Comments

  • Anonymous

    This is very good news! But don’t forget that Far Enough Farm at Centre Island still faces closure, as early as this June. Centre Island is not really open all year round for most people, and so there were serious barriers to a “Save the Zoo” campaign. Far Enough Farm will really only have a month or so to raise funds.

  • Anonymous

    Great news, but buyer beware. Philanthropy of this kind is great, but most people don’t realize it gives the philanthropist more say and control over these (public) institutions. I hope that’s not the case here.

    http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/04/03/york-university-teaches-jim-balsillie-hard-lesson-of-mixing-philanthropy-with-public-academics/

    • Anonymous

      Philanthropy also means that nice things only get saved in rich neighborhoods (see Riverdale Farm)

      • downtowngirlbornandraised

        Sorry didn’t mean to like your post, I meant to click reply.

        Riverdale Farm may actually be in Cabbagetown which is a higher income neighbourhood, but it’s right next to Regent Park which is (still mostly) a lower income neighbourhood.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for pointing that out.

    • Anonymous

      A certain former RIM CEO’s attempt to create an academic approach to understanding the universe hardly compares to a 1 for 1 foundation donation hoping to kick start a locally board run small zoo.

      Time to do rather then worry.

      • Anonymous

        I’m sorry you seemed to have missed the point. The reason why the public purse is good to pay for these types of institutions is that private interests are not respected. If private money is used to pay for these types of institutions, public interests need not be respected. It’s happening at almost every major university in Canada and the U.S., Hospitals and research facilities, etc etc.

        Get it?

        • Anonymous

          I think the more ridiculous statment is comparing what Balsillie does to seed money to create a non-profit that would at least allow something to continue, when the city no longer chooses to pay for it.

          Should we as a city support High Park through city taxes. Probably. But, baring the political will to do so, do we do nothing?

          That’s my point about time to do rather then worry.

          • Anonymous

            Balsille was perhaps a bad example. My apologies.

            That being said, we can move past it?

            a) “The foundation—an organization whose name produced few Google hits prior to the announcement, and whose backers remain mysterious”

            b) Philanthropy influences politics, politicians and public policy

            In (b) the 3rd item is the one we should focus on. With the selling of public assets being top of mind of the current conservative style governments, protecting our public assets is more important than ever. While it may seem harmless now, if the idea spreads to other parts of the park, Grenadier Pond, Sports areas, Jamie Bell Adventure Park or Picnic areas whether that be through maintanence or full blown “philanthropist take-over” of any of these areas, these “do-gooders” all of a sudden have a huge stake in the park and have backed the public into a corner of “do as we say, or risk losing your park”.

            If you don’t think this is happening all over, you should take some time to read about it a bit further. I don’t have time to find reference material for you (sorry that’s why the first article was perhaps not the right article to post), but here is a start:

            http://press.princeton.edu/blog/category/philanthropy-in-america/

            “Should we as a city support High Park through city taxes. Probably. But, baring the political will to do so, do we do nothing?”

            In this case, I would say yes. What intrinsic value does this part of the park have? Is it exclusive in it’s idea? Are there other venues in the city that are untouched by this unfortunate turn of funding events?

            It would be wonderful to have a zoo in every single park in Toronto. But at what cost?

  • ARKII

    This is horrible news!!! Please do not donate to Save High Park Zoo! This is such a poorly cared for zoo and must be closed down. The enclosures are not suited to the physical needs of the animals and lack security from the visitors. Whether you visit on a weekday or a weekend, it has little or no supervision to protect the animals from people (both adult and child) who feed anything from carrots, french fries to hotdogs and hamburgers to the animals, poke at the animals through the fencing with sticks and even throw garbage into the enclosures. People who I have seen do all of the above include volunteers collecting donations to save the zoo. Saving the zoo shows how little compassion The Friends of High Park Zoo have for the animals who spend months in misery before they are sold at auctions or slaughterhouses for meat when the season is up. Your entertainment is their misery. Please consider donating, visiting and volunteering at farm sanctuaries that rescue animals. Teach your children to be kind to animals and most of all, respect all living beings. Thank-you

    • Vampchick21

      Ummm….a little proof please, especially your accusation of the animals being sold to slaughterhouses. while I am against animal cruelty, I’m also against baseless accusations. I wasn’t born yesterday and I know better that to take the word of an anonomous blog commentor on such subjects.

      • ARKII

        Contact Toronto Zoo for yourself and ask them what happens to the animals at High Park Zoo, Black Creek Pioneer Village etc. at the end of tourist season. Photos of inappropriate interactions will be made made public soon.

        • Anonymous

          Oooo…….kkkkkkkkkkkk………so the City of Toronto has allowed awful inappropriate interactions to occur, and you think nothing should be done to maybe create an atmosphere, NOT UNDER THE CITY, that would be better?

          By your name, you’re one of those anti-zoo types.

        • http://twitter.com/Welshgrrl Vashty Hawkins

          So instead of addressing ways in which these kinds of interactions can be minimized for the sake of the animals, let’s just ban inner city zoos altogether. If you’re poor and don’t have the time and money to hike out to the Metro Zoo and fork over $50 (admission fee for one adult and two kids) just to walk through the gates, then you’re SOL.

          • Anonymous

            Banning zoos period, is a wonderful idea!

          • ARKII

            So you expect others to donate and foot the bill to keep a run down zoo with inadequate enclosures, ineffective security and no onsite vet? Anything can happen to the captive animals because people feed them, throw garbage in the enclosures and poke at them through the fence. How can anyone justify raising $50K to keep this zoo open as it is? What will improve if the same people collecting donations to keep it open are feeding the animals, encouraging people and kids to touch the animals through the fence? There is so much more to learn about animals through educational and compassionate means and this can be done for free or at very small costs. How about taking your kids to Toronto Animal Services on the weekend to help walk dogs who are waiting to be adopted? Poverty is no excuse to take animals for granted.

        • Vampchick21

          That’s just the kind of response that makes me doubt you.

          • ARKII

            As stated in another post, photos will be made public soon.
            Rather than deny everything people are posting in opposition to this zoo, go spend more than an hour there to observe. You will witness inappropriate interactions and realize that the enclosures are inadequate for the animals and see firsthand that it is very poorly staffed. Such habitats are inherently cruel for animals which is obvious to see and learn by reading the actual labels on the enclosures that highlight the original habitats for each animal.
            It doesn’t take much effort on your part to contact Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation’s Urban Forestry department who maintain the grounds and the Toronto Zoo who is contracted to care for the animals on a part-time basis to verify the staffing and operations issues addressed.

          • Vampchick21

            And as stated by myself more than once, please provide proof. you have indicated in another post that you are part of a group. What group? Because right now you are just a fearmongering commentator on a blog who isn’t giving any verifiable information except telling us to call places. The onus is on you to provide valid facts and back them up since you are the one making the accusation. If you are part of a group doing real work to save animals, then what group is that?

    • Anonymous

      On an unrelated note, anybody know where I can get a llama burger?

      • Anonymous

        llama burgers would really alpacca them in

  • Francis Picas

    Poor animals. The enclosures are so small and barren. I would have liked to have seen the zoo closed and animals sent to spacious sanctuaries to live their lives out as naturally as possible.

    • Anonymous

      I think the opposite. Nature sucks, I’d much rather live in a cage in the city than in some shite forest.

  • SM

    Just because something has been around a longtime does not make it good or right. This zoo & its animals are poorly cared for in small enclosures. At the end of the season does anyone wonder where all the animals go?? and why young different ones return in the spring? This is nothing more than a petting zoo. These animals would have been far better off going to sanctuaries where they would have been cared for & lived out their lives in happiness.

    • Anonymous

      Your Disney fantasy about sanctuaries is no more “natural” than a zoo. Wouldn’t it be better to set them loose in the wild, where animal life is brutal and short?

      • Anonymous

        A rather simple answer to a very complex problem. It’s a chicken/egg thing.

        If you hadn’t bothered caging them then yes. But we did cage them, now it’s irresponsible to put them back in the wild where they are not equipped.

        • Anonymous

          I’m just saying, “happiness” is kind of an odd and anthropomorphic objective for former zoo animals. Frankly, if zoos are unavailable and wild release is impossible, euthanasia is fine by me.

          • Anonymous

            That much is true.

          • ARKII

            You’d rather see the animals go to another zoo or to be killed before sending them to a sanctuary?

            Perhaps you don’t know that sanctuaries are real places where animals resceud from zoos, factory farms, auctions and illegal breeders get to roam on larger spans of land and have their individual needs met (food, grooming, vet care)?

            Please go and visit a sanctuary like the Donkey Sanctuary in Guelph before calling sanctuaries Disney fantasies. There is so much to learn from the experience of being welcomed and gaining the trust of animals who were abused or neglected in their past.

          • Anonymous

            I see nothing a priori wrong with zoos or eating meat, so yes, that is exactly what I’m saying. Sanctuaries strike me as just another form of domestication, solely for the pleasure of humans. You seem to confirm this.

  • Anonymous

    Funny how until today there was not a peep out of the anti-zoo crowd on the High Park zoo.

    Now today, its all “get them to a better place’ etc. etc.

    Look, I’m no fan of zoos as they are but the hypocrisy of people that can afford to go see nature taking away a faux bit of nature from those who can’t is truly galling. For people who usually clad themselves in social justice language, I don’t think they listen very much.

    • ARKII

      OgtheDim, this issue was addressed last August when a deer was shot by police almost 4 hours after being hit by a car near the zoo. There was no staff, no vet at the zoo who could or would come help with the emergency. When our group asked Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation’s Urban Forestry department who maintain the grounds and the Toronto Zoo who is contracted to provide vet care to the animals if there are measures in place for emergencies that happen at High Park and at High Park Zoo, they all stated that there is no onsite staff to handle emergencies for the resident animals and not at all for wildlife of high park. This led to a letter writing campaign urging the Mayor to close this zoo down on the grounds that it is run down and understaffed and poses a threat to the animals.

      • Vampchick21

        And what is your group please?

  • Vampchick21

    i really think those who are making the accusations of animal cruelty against the High Park Zoo really need to actually provide proof of their accusation. These are serious alligations. And I mean more than telling me to call the Toronto Zoo.

  • http://piorkowski.ca qviri

    The anti-zoo comments don’t look astroturfed at all…

    • Anonymous

      And which commercial entity would have paid for that?

      • Anonymous

        Yeh……….it’s not like denying the chance for inner city people to see any non pet animals more then just a squirrel, on a telphone line, a feral cat across a fence, and a bunch of ducks being overfed on enriched white bread isn’t monolithically elitist too, is it?

        • Anonymous

          What’s that got to do with accusations of astroturfing?

          To further answer your question however, we have a zoo already. We have several. We also live in the information age where everything looks better than the naked eye can conceive it to be and access to information is almost a non-barrier.

          There are plenty of opportunities for people to see animals less natural than the feral cat you spoke of within city limits.

          Nobody is denied anything and High Park is “hardly” inner city IMHO (pertaining to the picture “inner city” paints).

          • Anonymous

            Astroturfing for a cause can be just as much on behalf of a monolithic entity that has no understanding of day to day reality.

            BTW, the zoo is so far on the edge of town there are farmers living closer to it then 95% of the city. Heck, more golfers drive by it everyday then school children. If you seriously think the Toronto Zoo is affordable and accessible well…….

            High Park is on two streetcar routes and a subway.

            It is FAR more accessible to a person at Jane/Eglinton then the main zoo. (Inner city is not just Parkdale, Regent and Moss Park).

          • Anonymous

            If inner city is Jane/eg than you have redefined the exact meaning of inner city.

            And if your so concerned with these inner city kids, riverdale farm is closer and isn’t the zoo like 1 subway and 1 bus away?

            Anyways. You’ve conveniently glossed over my points twice now. Astroturf, what?

          • Anonymous

            Oh. Wait. I get it. Inner city in your mind is socio economic, not geography based :P

          • Anonymous

            The reality of city building is people who will be most hurt by the closure of the High Park zoo are people who can not afford to see animals otherwise. People like ArkII conveniently gloss over the socio-economic discussion.

            Somebody indicated that reponse was astroturfed. You indicated that astroturfing was only a role played by people with a corporatist agenda. I indicated that the corporatist agenda is mirrored by people who’s extreme views take away options for those with less resources.

            To Inner city – always was a socio economic outlook term.

            If you want to discuss the use of socio-economic terms within this city and its application to places beyond the downtown, take it up with the United Way and its discussions of the inner suburbs and poverty by postal code.

          • Anonymous

            “people who can not afford to see animals otherwise.”

            You can’t cater to all the people all the time. I can’t afford many things as well, but make due.

            I still don’t know what it’s got to do with the price of tea in China.

            I’d rather see people explore their options and learn to live within their own environment then having a generation demand that things are always free and available (oops, we already have that).

            If it means sustaining our control over our parks and public spaces, so be it.

            “Inner city”

            “inner suburbs”

            See the discrepancy?

  • Badoskar

    I am so disappointed to hear it. The money donated for the care of these animals (actually donated to keep the ZOO open – which really has little or nothing to do with the animals’ care) would be better spent relocating them to a sanctuary that WILL ensure they are cared for. Let’s not forget about the tragedy in the highpark area last year when a deer struggled for 4 hours without vet or services available to it. Eventually, the deer wasshot by police via telephone medical advise. Why would anyone support having animal in a zoo in highpark without at the very least adequate care available. People need to stop using animals for their own entertainment. I wish the money would pay for their passsage out of this place.

  • ARKII

    As stated in another post, photos will be made public soon.
    Rather than deny everything people are posting in opposition to this zoo, go spend more than an hour there to observe. You will witness inappropriate interactions and realize that the enclosures are inadequate for the animals and see firsthand that it is very poorly staffed. Such habitats are inherently cruel for animals which is obvious to see and learn by reading the actual labels on the enclosures that highlight the original habitats for each animal.
    It doesn’t take much effort on your part to contact Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation’s Urban Forestry department who maintain the grounds and the Toronto Zoo who is contracted to care for the animals on a part-time basis to verify the staffing and operations issues addressed.

  • Anonymous

    The ethos on display here is disturbing, to say the least.

  • HIghParkLover

    All I can say is that I’m glad the zoo’s been saved. As a kid growing up in Parkdale, the zoo was my annual treat, a chance to see animals I wouldn’t be able to see either. I loved the Yaks. For those of us in the west end of the city, HIgh Park Zoo was the only place this was feasible. Those saying go to the Metro Zoo, try doing that with 4 kids and a small budget.

    And as for the reports of animal cruelity, I never saw that. And I honestly hate that we value animals over human beings.