Finally, after years of bickering and delays, Toronto’s prolonged pachyderm saga is drawing to a close. Shortly after Thanksgiving, the Toronto Zoo’s biggest, wrinkliest residents, Toka, Iringa and Thika, will embark on an epic, 50-hour road trip to their new home at an animal sanctuary in California. Former Price Is Right host and animal lover Bob Barker is, as promised, funding the trio’s transport, even though his preferred plan to fly them via either a military plane or a Russian cargo jet fell through. The elephants will, however, be able to soothe their aching post-journey muscles in a therapeutic Jacuzzi once they get set up in their west coast digs. Sounds awfully nice. [Global]
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A tour of some of the Toronto Zoo’s cutest, cuddliest animals, including the prize pair of giant pandas
Er Sun and Da Mao, two giant pandas on long-term loan from Chongqing Zoo in China, arrived via FedEx in March (Prime Minister Stephen Harper even signed for the package) and became an instant hit. Their kind eyes and winsome smiles had the media instantly smitten, and the public followed suit when the Zoo’s Giant Panda Experience opened in the middle May. A couple months into their five-year stay, four-year-old male Da Mao is emerging as an outgoing, attention-seeking rock star and five-year-old female Er Shun as a shyer, more reserved creature. Of course, while they’re the attraction du jour, other adorable beasties in residence still bring a serious awwwww factor. Here, a slideshow of some of the Zoo’s cutest denizens, from tiny baby lemurs to lovably awkward penguins. Read the rest of this entry »
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After twelve years of planning, a pair of giant pandas on long-term loan from China’s Chongqing Zoo finally touched down in Toronto this morning. (The exhibit opens to the public in May after a mandatory 30-day quarantine.) Er Shun and Da Mao arrived via FedEx—Stephen Harper signed for the package—and, based on the pics of the couple enjoying in-flight catering and gazing out the window, they weathered the journey better than most coach passengers. The Toronto Zoo is hoping the pair will mate during their five-year stay in the city—which is a lot more likely now that they’re completely sure they’ve got a male and a female.
Toronto got a lot less adorable in January, when the Toronto Zoo’s young polar bear Hudson left for the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg. As if to rub it in, the Buffalo Zoo debuted a new polar bear cub, nicknamed Luna, five weeks later. The only thing that can ease our pain is to know that Hudson’s cuteness still reigns supreme. Toronto’s hometown bear, back when he was just a ball of fuzz, is the one on the left showing some spectacular camera-mugging. However, this video of Luna, right, falling out of her kiddie pool may just sway the vote. If you need more evidence before making your choice, check out the photos below.
1 | My indestructible watch
In 1990 I went on an expedition to the Arctic with 30 Soviet and Canadian students. While I was preparing for the trip, my parents gave me this Rolex Submariner. On the back it says, “Go for it, Love Mom and Dad.” It’s survived the freezing cold, having kayaks fall on it and being chased by
2 | My trainer
His name is Teiko Reindorf, and he comes to our house three days a week. It’s an intense 45 minutes of interval circuit training. He just kills me. But it gives me energy for the day.
3 | My weekend retreat
Four years ago my wife, our daughter and I were visiting friends at Lake Simcoe, and we fell in love with the place. There happened to be a cottage for sale next door—and we bought it. It’s only an hour from Toronto, so we’re there almost every other weekend, all year round. Our daughter, who’s now six, calls it Lake Sim-Cohon.
4 | My good luck charm
My grandfather died in 1991. When I was cleaning out his apartment, I found this American $10 bill in his wallet. I’ve kept it ever since, and I take it with me wherever I go.
5 | My perfect travel bag Read the rest of this entry »
My father is George Cohon, the founder of McDonald’s in Canada and Russia. He used this suitcase when he was trekking back and forth to Moscow in the ’80s. When I became commissioner, he gave it to me. I love it because it fits just enough for a short trip: my suit, some shirts, workout stuff and we’re good to go.
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The Toronto Zoo will soon receive two orphaned, 14-month-old southern hairy-nosed wombats (unfortunately, yes, that is the actual name) as part of its plan to lure crowds using cuddly baby animals new wombat breeding program. Based on photos in the Toronto Star, these furry-snouted marsupials won’t be the zoo’s cutest residents, but they could be the ones to cause the most diplomatic hoopla: it took five years to organize the import and the animals will land in Canada by way of Chicago, where they were under a 30-day quarantine after their arrival from Australia. The ordeal will culminate in an official wombat handoff involving the Canadian consul general and his Australian counterpart this Wednesday. It’s still unclear if the handover will be literal or figurative. [Toronto Star]
The Toronto Zoo has done really, really well this year by capitalizing on the near-universal soft spot for cuddly baby animals. (The mild winter helped, too. But it was mostly the baby animals.) A recent staff report suggests this little guy and this wee thing, along with baby penguins and white lion cubs, all helped boost attendance by 46 per cent for the beginning of this year, compared with the first five months of 2011. Zoo board chairman Joe Torzsok attributed the boost to the zoo’s unconventional marketing campaign (we guess he means that weird “cute fight” music video), but told the Toronto Sun that the work isn’t done: “We can’t rest on our laurels, we still have six months left to go this year.” Zoo animals, you heard the man—better start your baby making. [Toronto Sun]
For a moment, it looked as though the Toronto Zoo’s three elephants would (at long last) fly out to the PAWS sanctuary in California later this month. But it turns out, no, the zoo is still conducting a due diligence review of PAWS amid continuing debate about the presence of tuberculosis at the sanctuary. While some councillors, including Glenn De Baeremaeker and Michelle Berardinetti are optimistic Iringa, Toka and Thika will be airborne by August, we won’t believe it until the elephants are at cruising altitude, eating their in-flight peanuts. Or, more accurately, chained inside crates in their Soviet-designed cargo plane. [Toronto Star]
Monday, June 18
- 86’D With Ivy Knight: Watch top chefs compete for the finest in sustainable ceviche at this annual battle. The Drake, 1150 Queen St. W., 416-531-5042. Find out more »
- Canadian Beer News Dinner Series: Amsterdam Brewery vs. Flat Rock Cellars. Beast restaurant hosts a four-course dinner with both beer and wine pairings. 96 Tecumseth St., 647-352-6000. Find out more »
- Super Foods for Super Health Workshop: Join Marni Wasserman for a workshop about nutrient-rich foods and what they can do for your health. Marni’s Kitchen, 26 Lauderdale Dr., 647-477-8131. Find out more »
- Piola’s Monday Night Mixer: Piola’s weekly aperitivo italiano, with cocktail and beer specials and complimentary snacks. 1165 Queen St. W., 416-477-4652. Find out more »
The Price Is Right icon Bob Barker is riled up (but not this riled up, thank goodness) that Toronto Zoo management is delaying sending its remaining three elephants to his sanctuary of choice. The animal lover is threatening to withdraw his offer to pay for the elephants’ $800,000 flight to California (via private aircraft, no less) unless there’s an “ironclad guarantee” that they’ll make it to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary, near Sacramento. Problem is, talks between Toronto Zoo chief executive John Tracogna and PAWS director Ed Stewart have gone so badly that they now only speak to each other via lawyers, and zoo staff have waged a campaign against PAWS, claiming elephants there have tuberculosis. Then there’s Giorgio Mammoliti, the former chair of Toronto Zoo’s board, who has tried to stop the deal since the zoo allegedly lost its accreditation over the plan to send the elephants to PAWS, which doesn’t have the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ stamp of approval. Trying to salvage the deal, Councillor Michelle Berardinetti, who orchestrated the vote last October when council decided to move the elephants, has challenged Mammoliti and Tracogna to go to PAWS with her next week to check it out—but we doubt Barker would cover the airfare for that trip. [Toronto Star]
We’ve been following the saga of the Toronto Zoo’s efforts to relocate its trio of elephant dames for months, but things just got serious (even more serious than Bob Barker’s offer of a private aircraft). The Association of Zoos and Aquariums has taken away the zoo’s accreditation, apparently because city council voted to send Iringa, Thika and Toka to a California sanctuary not recognized by that illustrious body. Without the AZA’s stamp of approval, the zoo can’t take part in species survival programs. Plus, exchange programs with accredited zoos must be assessed on a case-by-case basis (don’t worry, though—the giant panda visit is still a go). Rob Ford took the opportunity to deliver some political jabs, unleashing what sounded like several weeks of pent-up anger at council, whose vote to send the elephants to the sanctuary had overturned recommendations by zoo staff. “Council sometimes thinks they know better, and this is a perfect example of when they don’t know better,” he told reporters. No prizes for divining what other examples he may be thinking of. [Globe and Mail]
1. ANNUAL EASTER “EGG”STRAVAGANZA
Forget DIY Easter egg hunts, because once the chocolate eggs are gone, it’s all over, which is sad. Instead, head uptown to the zoo, which plays host to a weekend’s worth of fun activities, including visits with the animals and the daily “Beary-Bunny Easter Parade.” Join Explorer Bear, who will be dressed up as a beary-bunny, for a walk through the zoo’s “Spring Trail.” April 6 to 9. $13–$23. Toronto Zoo, 361A Old Finch Ave., 416-392-5929, torontozoo.com.
2. WORLD WAR I MINI FILM FESTIVAL Read the rest of this entry »
A Carlton Cinema/War Horse co-production, this mini film festival marks the April 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge. The skirmish, a defining moment in Canadian military history, saw Canadian soldiers capture the ridge from German forces. Each film takes a different perspective about the Great War: the CanCon-heavy Passchendaele (2008) is a tragic war romance; Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), a musical, uses popular songs of the early 1900s to tell the story of WWI; A Very Long Engagement (2004) is a drama about a young woman trying to find her fiancé—who may have been killed in the Battle of the Somme; and Gallipoli (1981), the film that set a young Mel Gibson on his path to superstardom, examines Australia’s role in the Gallipoli campaign. April 7. $5 suggested donation. Carlton Cinema, 20 Carlton St., 416-598-5454, rainbowcinemas.ca/A/Carlton.
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• WestJet posted a video (above) introducing a child-free cabin program called Kargo Kids, which involves sending kids into the baggage hold to keep them quiet. (Could this be real? Please?)
• A prankster with some Photoshop know-how took the idea of EdgeWalk a little further and worked up a photo of “EdgeSwing,” a carnival-like ride around the top of the CN Tower. Reddit commenters got in on the fun: “I’ve checked, and this is NOT an April Fool’s Day thing. Apparently they hired Richard Dean Anderson to design the whole thing.”
• A lot of unoriginal Torontonians (one every 10 or 15 minutes, according to Newstalk 1010) called the Toronto Zoo asking for “Mr. Jim Panzie,” “Miss Ryna Soris” and the like.
• Wellington Financial, a Toronto-based finance firm, announced that Jim Balsillie was its new chairman. The Toronto Star called it as a joke, but given Balsillie’s recent troubles, we wouldn’t be surprised if he were looking for a paycheck.
When we saw the Toronto Zoo’s new baby lemur, we thought, “That’s a cute lemur.” When the folks at the Toronto Star saw said lemur, their thoughts were more along the lines of, “That lemur’s mom is kind of slutty.” Apparently, male and female lemurs have multiple mates, hence the paper’s attempt at humour. But who needs sensationalism to draw eyeballs when you’ve got a photo of a baby animal? Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »