August 15th was the anniversary of the opening of the Toronto Zoo, or the Metropolitan Toronto Zoo as it was first called. The Metropolitan was dropped from the name when the “Megacity” was created in 1998. To mark the date, I have selected some photos from the archives to see what it was like when it first opened.
Prior to the opening of the new zoo in 1974, the Riverdale Farm was the zoo. The Riverdale Park Zoo was very small and had animals in small enclosures. A larger zoo was proposed in the 60s which would increase the size from 3 hectares (7.4 acres) to 287 hectares (710 acres). Animals were moved to the new site upon completion and the old zoo was converted into the Riverdale Farm, which opened in 1978.
The Toronto Zoo also had a “monorail” that opened in 1976. The Canadian Domain Ride took a path into the Zoo’s Canadian Domain area, located in the Rouge Valley. After an accident in 1994 where 27 people were hurt, 8 seriously, the train was discontinued. The tracks became overgrown and the infrastructure weakened. A new life was breathed into the monorail when a fundraising drive raised $1.15 million to restore it. Now, Magnovate, a company that works with maglev trains in Edmonton, is close to signing a deal to build one of its systems over a five kilometre stretch.
The zoo is a topic of much debate. On one side you have animals out of their habitat being staged for our enjoyment. Unable to live their natural lives. On the other side, animals of the world face a growing threat and the protection and research that goes on at the Toronto Zoo has saved many species from extinction.
The zoo also participates in many captive breeding and re-introduction programs, is a great education resource for conservation efforts with 1.2 million visitors each year, helps in restoring habitats for native species around the world, partakes in conservation studies of endangered plants and habitats and an international seed exchange, has an Invasive Species Management Program that works on research, education and management initiatives to help prevent and control the spread of invasive species.