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Toronto Council votes to stop trying to sell zoo

Twenty-five-year old orangutan Budi interacts with children outside her enclosure at the Toronto Zoo.

Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

The Toronto Zoo is no longer on the block after council brought a quick end to the city's search for a new owner for the Scarborough facility.

Only two of the 32 councillors who voted Thursday night were against cancelling the short-lived effort to test the market for a possible deal for the city-owned zoo. One of the opponents was Mayor Rob Ford.

"If we can get the money for it, let's try to sell the zoo. If we can't, that's fine, but I think we should keep all our avenues open," the mayor told councillors.

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The vote to quash the zoo's potential privatization occurred just three days after the city took the first step toward a possible sale of the facility, issuing on Monday a request for expression of interest that seeks "innovative, creative and sustainable" options for the Toronto Zoo as a move toward "sale, lease or operation."

But as the week worn on, it became clear that there were several obstacles in the way. The group that owns most of the zoo's land – the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority – was against the idea. Members of its board had already asked the city not to proceed with its plans and warned that a commercial venture would not enjoy the same favourable lease terms as the city.

Councillors opposed to a sale also warned that transferring the zoo to a private operator could jeopardize a delicate agreement with China to bring giant pandas to Toronto next year.

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