Donors are closing their wallets with news that the Toronto Zoo is for sale (and investors aren’t opening theirs)

Donors are closing their wallets with news that the Toronto Zoo is for sale (and investors aren’t opening theirs)

A tiger at the Toronto Zoo—possibly unhappy about the ownership mess (Image: derekp) 

Apparently, donors aren’t keen to throw money into a black hole (surprise, surprise). The latest buzz around the city’s efforts to unload the Toronto Zoo is that once-generous donors are holding onto their cash because they don’t want to give away their money if they don’t quite know where it’s going. Reports that a Spanish theme park company was interested in taking over the zoo didn’t help matters either, and any hopes that the federal government might step in to help out were dashed as well.

The Globe and Mail has the story:

Since city council voted in favour of selling or leasing the Toronto Zoo last month, some long-time donors have decided to postpone large gifts until the zoo’s ownership issues are resolved, a process that could take years. Board members are working to reassure donors that they have no intention of selling the zoo to a private interest such as Parque Reunidos—the amusement park giant making inquiries about the Toronto Zoo at city hall. The board is worried that the zoo’s uncertain fate could undermine its donor base—worth $1.7 million in 2010—for years to come…

The cloud hanging over the family attraction has arrived at a bad time. It’s embarking on a $250 million capital drive to update aging amenities, and attendance has remained flat for years even as the GTA’s population has continued to rise.

The idea that selling off the zoo might drag down donations doesn’t appear to have occurred to Rob Ford. Even before news broke about the Spanish firm’s interest, the mayor said people were knocking on his door to buy the zoo (city theatres, too). True to his oft-simplistic reasoning when it comes to financial matters, Ford said, “Let’s privatize the zoo. There’s a huge amount of money there. You can’t put a price on it right now.” But now it appears the zoo’s ownership woes—and resultant donation drought—could last for years.

One of the people left to clean up the mess is Gloria Lindsay Luby, a conservative councillor who seemed on the brink of exile from Ford Nation the last time we checked. After all this, she might be getting ready to turn in her passport.

Threat of zoo sale has donors closing wallets [Globe and Mail]