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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.)

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