Eunuch Lion basking in the sun

Toronto Photo Essay: Toronto Zoo

It was my daughter's eighth birthday on Tuesday, so we decided to spend the day at the zoo. All told, it was me, my wife, our daughter and three year old son, my father-in-law Larry, an ark-load of biodiversity and some rather extreme weather.

Once in the gate, we hopped on the infamous Zoomobile for a quick jaunt out to the African Savannah, as good a starting place as any. Along the way we got up close and personal with the elephants, a pleasant surprise that got us motivated for what would eventually turn out to be a fair bit of legwork.


After taking in lions, hyenas, giraffes and zebras and a quick spot of lunch, accompanied by the park's notorious winged rats (seagulls), we tried hopping on the Zoomobile again, but an approaching thunderstorm meant Zoomobile service was temporarily on hold. Rather than get soaked, we decided to haul ass down to the Australasian Pavilion.

Tree kangaroo

As luck would have it, we managed to just get in the door as the downpour started, but my son managed to give himself some nasty blisters in the process, which meant he got to ride "up shoulders" for most of the rest of the day. Inside, we marvelled over the tree kangaroos (see above photo by Larry), snakes, lizards and turtles, not to mention the new Great Barrier Reef exhibit with it's mighty impressive array of salt water aquariums (the kids loved the jellyfish, as well as anything else remotely reminiscent of Finding Nemo).

JellyfishSiberian tiger

The storm blew over very quickly, and things were starting to dry off in the sun by the time we went back outside to see kangaroos, wallabies, emus, and an awe-inspiring group of Siberian tigers.


By this point, the heat was starting to get oppressive again, my son was very grumpy about his feet, and my back was in agony from carrying him, but we couldn't leave without a stop at the birthday girl's all-time favourite, the butterfly and moth collection at the Indo-Malayan Pavilion.

If you have a hard time appreciating the beauty of nature, surrounding yourself with hundreds of pairs of delicate wings fluttering all around your head just might be what the doctor ordered. It definitely raised everyone's spirits, and Larry was even lucky enough to have one of the bigger specimens perch atop his head for a while.

Larry the landing pad

Back at the car, we compared notes on the photos we'd taken as we buckled the kids in and stowed our gear in the trunk. As we made our way back home, I could've kicked myself as I looked into the back seat saw the shot that would've made the perfect end to this photo essay; my kids, both quickly fading, son slumping onto daughter who in turn slumped onto her mother. That ought to learn me.

Photos by Steve Chatterton, Penny Phelan and Larry Phelan

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