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Toronto Zoo looking for financial help to feed animals during COVID-19 closure

Click to play video 'Coronavirus:  Zoos and the struggle to survive during the pandemic' Coronavirus: Zoos and the struggle to survive during the pandemic
WATCH: Zoos and aquariums across the world have gone quiet. Human visitors are no longer allowed. The animals still need to be fed and cared for, and since ticket sales stopped, so has the flow of money to pay the bills. Zoos are under intense pressure to adapt. Tom Hayes explores some of their survival tactics.

TORONTO – The Toronto Zoo is looking for funds to keep food on its animals plates while it remains closed due to COVID-19.

“It costs about $1 million a year to feed animals at the Toronto Zoo, and it’s not like going to the pet store and picking up a bag of ‘chow’ or something like that,” said Beth Gilhespy, executive director of the Toronto Zoo Wildlife Conservancy.

“They need a very specialized diet made up of ingredients that are natural and they would find in the wild.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus pandemic likely a boon for Ontario wildlife as humans stay home

The conservancy, which is the zoo’s fundraising partner, has launched a campaign to make up that lost revenue so they can continue feeding and caring for the facility’s 5,000 animals at the usual high standard, Gilhespy said.

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Usually, the conservancy focuses on raising money to protect endangered species through zoo programs, she said. For instance, the zoo helped reintroduce hundreds of endangered turtles to their natural habitat _ the Rouge Valley, right outside the zoo’s gates.

“Right now with COVID-19, we have another urgent need, so we’re stepping up to meet that,” Gilhespy said.

Click to play video 'Tortoises visit gorillas at deserted Toronto Zoo amid COVID-19 pandemic' Tortoises visit gorillas at deserted Toronto Zoo amid COVID-19 pandemic
Tortoises visit gorillas at deserted Toronto Zoo amid COVID-19 pandemic

The conservancy said it will begin reaching out to make its needs known and rally supporters.

The Calgary Zoo is also facing a crunch, the facility’s chief development officer said.

READ MORE: Vancouver Aquarium faces bankruptcy amid coronavirus shutdown

Looking after the Calgary Zoo’s 1,000 animals generally costs $550,000 per month — a figure that includes food and vet care, Steven Ross said.

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The zoo has laid off about 60 per cent of its staff in order to cut costs, but without fundraising, he said, it won’t be enough to keep the animals cared for while maintaining conservation efforts.

The Vancouver Aquarium has also said it’s in financial trouble, losing more than $3 million each month of the closure, and could close for good in two months if nothing is done.