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Coronavirus: Toronto Zoo plans to reopen for ‘drive-thru’ visits

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WATCH ABOVE: The Toronto Zoo will temporarily become a drive-thru zoo when the Ontario government gives the go-ahead to reopen. Drive-thru rehearsals have been conducted on the property. Tom Hayes reports – May 13, 2020

Visitors are soon going to be able to experience the Toronto Zoo in a way they never have before amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The plan is to have people stay in their vehicles — start in the parking lot and literally drive through our front entrance and use the walking paths and zoo mobile route to get a behind-the-scene unique experience,” said Toronto Zoo CEO Dolf DeJong.

Around 1.2 million people visit the Toronto Zoo every year, but 2020 is different and full of challenges thanks to COVID-19.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Latest developments in the Greater Toronto Area on May 13

One of the biggest challenges has been securing the food budget. The price tag is more than $1 million a year to feed the animals, which usually comes from parking revenues. Zoo officials launched a donation program that has taken off.

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“Our donors have stepped up and raised over $600,000 through our Zoo Food for Life campaign so our animals are going to be well fed,” said DeJong.

“We got 60 watermelons delivered, so the polar bears got to enjoy that. There’s been pineapple delivered, we got some carrots delivered,” said Amy Goswell, a polar bear keeper.

And now there’s one more mouth to feed.

Baby Long Legs, a third-generation giraffe for the zoo, was born Tuesday morning.

“Her grandmother was born here at the zoo, her mother Mstari was born here, and now this little girl was born here,” said Chris Dulong, a wildlife care supervisor.

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Baby Long Legs won’t be ready for public viewing for a few weeks. But when she is that viewing will be different. It will be families in their cars winding through the Toronto Zoo drive-thru. They’re just waiting for the go-ahead from the government.

“If the premier told us to be ready for this weekend, I think our team’s there,” said DeJong.