TORONTO (May 8, 2020) – Narcity story by Tom Nightingale.

If you’re like us right now, you’re probably waiting pretty impatiently for attractions to be able to re-open again. Are you desperate to see some cute animals or to enjoy the underwater world in the 6ix again? Well, Toronto Zoo and Ripley’s Aquarium might have some good news for you.

In a release issued on Thursday afternoon, May 7, Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) announced it has hit upon a reopening plan for the country’s 30 zoos and aquariums.

Those include two of Toronto’s main attractions, the Toronto Zoo and Ripley’s Aquarium.

Both have been closed indefinitely since mid-March, when the COVID-19 pandemic began to ramp up in Ontario. That was just days before the province declared a state of emergency.

Now, though, a plan is in the works to allow Canada’s zoos and aquariums to re-open as soon as the situation allows.

But that comes with stringent conditions.

Most notable among those is that CAZA says the procedures that are “expected to be used” including utilizing Google Maps to help enforce social distancing once visitors are reallowed.

In particular, the scheme proposes using the web mapping service to help with creating roughly 10-metre-squared “family bubbles.”

Jim Facette, Executive Director of CAZA, told Narcity by phone that this is a modelling exercise aimed at exploring how big a “bubble” would be needed to ensure safe distancing.*

Facette noted the assumption is that one “bubble” equates to a family of four at venues like these.

But there are also questions needing answers about how many of these “bubbles” would be able to move through the zoo or aquarium at any one time, even with one-way directional paths employed.

Per the release, other measures expected to be introduced upon reopening include one-way pathways, widespread hand sanitizer dispensers, and as-necessary use of masks by staff.

It also suggests introducing “timed ticketing” and limited acceptance of cash for payments.

Facette confirmed in the statement that all zoos and aquariums will also look to close off areas including large food spaces, planned camps, and other similar activities once they reopen.

This is in a bid to ensure returning visitors continue to follow best health practices and therefore do not spark a “second wave” of COVID-19.

Facette added to Narcity that other ingrained behaviours will absolutely have to change once venues can reopen.

“At aquariums, there’s a whole lot of touching of glass. That’s not gonna happen… Any place where you have that risk of touching and getting in close proximity, that’s not going to happen,” he said.

While shut, the aquarium has offered live streams, while the zoo has been keeping everyone up-to-date on social media as animals visit each other.

It’s not all been fun and games, though.

The zoo had to ask for urgent help from its supporters after revealing the lack of entrance and parking fees had left it unable to afford its usual supply of animal food.

The public responded magnificently, donating a remarkable $500,000 in just nine days.

Toronto sure loves its animals.

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