Efforts to save the High Park Zoo got a big boost Monday, thanks to a "quiet" local charitable group.
A group called the Honey Family Foundation will match donations to the zoo, up to $50,000, for the next three years. Contributions must be made through the city's Parks and Trees Donations Account.
For 2012, donations must be in by June 15 to be matched.
"We need to inspire people to donate now," said area Councillor Sarah Doucette, who has been working to save the west end institution. "The residents of the city want to see the zoo stay open."
Not much is known about the benefactors. Ms. Doucette said she first heard of the foundation last week, but that it seems to be a "quiet" group based in her ward. It matches donations to projects designed to improve the quality of life in the city.
The small zoo, which features bison, llamas and peacocks, among other animals, was one of the flashpoints during cost-cutting debates at city hall last year. Ultimately, the city subsidy was scrapped as part of a round of budget cuts designed to rein in the city's ever-growing budget.
Locals are trying to work out a business plan to keep the attraction going, likely by partnering with the private sector to solicit corporate sponsorships.
The hope is to raise enough money to keep the zoo going until the end of the year so longer-term cash can be secured.
"Corporations don't want to get involved with the zoo until they know it's staying open," Ms. Doucette said. "We know this because there are interested parties who have told us just that."
Ms. Doucette and the Friends of the High Park Zoo charity need to raise $100,000 to keep the zoo open until December, 2012. It costs about $200,000 to operate annually.
City council won't need to approve the deal, Ms. Doucette said.
To date, the zoo has raised about $40,000, Ms. Doucette said. About $10,000 came in over the Easter Weekend alone, thanks to a series of events where people could feed llamas or pick up a colouring book in exchange for a donation. Boxes are also set up on site to collect money.