November 7, 2016

Toronto Zoo in the Fall

Growing up three hours west of Toronto, a visit to the Toronto Zoo as a kid was always a special treat. Now that we call the big city home, I can't wait to make visiting with my little family an annual tradition.

Toronto Zoo in the fall - giraffe

During my sister's recent visit back to Ontario, we decided to take an afternoon and visit the Toronto Zoo. Neither my sister, husband or I had been in years, and it was Morley's first visit. We were excited to see what was new, but also to see what baby girl thought of all of the animals. 

Set in the beautiful Rouge Valley in the east end of the city, the Toronto Zoo first opened its doors in August 1974. The Zoo is made up of 710 acres of land, which is divided into seven zoogeographic regions - Indo-Malaya, Africa, Americas (North & South America), Eurasia Wilds, the Tundra Trek, Australasia and Canadian Domain - and home to over 5,000 animals representing 450 species. Since opening its gates, it has been a leader in saving and protecting species and their habitats, both locally and globally. 

The fall really is the best time to visit the Toronto Zoo - the summer crowds are gone, the weather is a comfortable temperature and the fall colours are stunning. And I mean stunning. Against the vibrant yellows, oranges, reds and browns of the leaves, the animals popped. Take a look for yourself.

Toronto Zoo in the Fall

Our visit started at the giant pandas. The pair arrived at the Zoo in spring of 2013 on loan from China as part of a long-term conservation partnership between China and Canada. Due to the fact that they are endangered in the wild, successful breeding in zoos is extremely important in order to keep these animals around for future generations. In October 2015, the pair welcomed two cubs - the first in Canadian history. While we were visiting, the cubs were sleeping peacefully inside with mom, while dad was outside happily munching on his bamboo.

Toronto Zoo in the fall - giant pandas

Did you know? A panda's daily diet consists almost entirely of the leaves, stems and shoots of bamboo. Since is contains very little nutritional value, pandas must eat 26 - 84 lbs every day to meet their energy needs.

Aside from the panda cubs, there were a number of other babies born at the Zoo in the past year -  four rare white lion cubs, a polar bear cub, a rhinoceros calf and Bactrian (two-humped) camel calf. While they are no longer baby-sized and growing quick, it was still cute to watch them play, or sleep in the case of the bears, and feel good about the successful work zoos do breeding animals in captivity, especially those of concern in the wild.

Toronto Zoo in the fall - white lions
Toronto Zoo in the fall - rhinoceros calf

Naturally, my favourite part of the Zoo is Tundra Trek, home to the wolves, reindeer, snowy owl and polar bears. I could have spent all day watching the big white bears, even though they were sleeping. However, time is of the essence when you have a 7 month old, so we had to move on.

Toronto Zoo in the fall - polar bear
Toronto Zoo in the fall - Tundra Trek

Did you know? You can tell a male snowy owl from a female by the colouring of their feathers. The above picture is a male because his feathers are all white, whereas females would have black markings on their feathers. So, for all of you Harry Potter fans out there, think back to the movies - was Hedwig a male, or female?

While we knew we were taking our chances on the weather before we walked through the front gates, it only started raining about half way through our journey. Luckily, we could escape the drizzle by popping in to one of the many animal pavilions to warm up. Visiting the gorillas, lemurs, orangutans and more was like a trip to the tropics.

Toronto Zoo in the fall - orangutan
Toronto Zoo in the fall - ring-tailed lemur
Toronto Zoo in the fall  - cichlids
Toronto Zoo in the fall - green python

I pity those that visit any zoo or aquarium with me. Without fail, it will always be filled with random (and I mean really random) animal facts and the phrase "Oh, these are my favourite" said to about every animal we come across. This visit was no exception. Luckily, my husband and sister know what they've signed up for well in advance - they patiently listen to everything that spews out of my mouth, or they've just gotten really good at tuning me out. Poor Morley, on the other hand, is really in for one when she gets older. 

Toronto Zoo in the fall
Toronto Zoo in the fall - grizzly bear
Toronto Zoo in the fall
Toronto Zoo in the fall - Sumatran tiger

Despite the bit of rain, it was the perfect fall day at the Toronto Zoo, and we can't wait to go back!

Things to know if you visit the Toronto Zoo in the fall:

  • Location: 361A Old Finch Avenue Toronto, ON
  • Hours: The Zoo is open 364 days a year (closed Christmas Day), but hours vary depending on the season. Give yourself at minimum 2-3 hours to visit. Last admission is one hour before close.  Check the website before you go.
  • Admission & parking: Cost of admission varies by season. Check the website in advance. There is also a fee for parking.
  • Several portions of the Zoo are closed during the winter season, including Splash Island, Kids Zoo and several gift shop and food kiosks. 
  • Plan your route in advance by taking a look at the map and daily animal keeper schedule. 

Have you visited a Zoo lately? What is your favourite animal? I'd love to hear about it!

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