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>About this Guide 
>Table of Contents

1.  What you can do
2.  Water
3.  Ecology
4.  Amphibians
5.  Environmental Issues
6.  Keystone species
7.  Get Wet!-
     Field Study Ideas

8.  The Zoo Experience
9.  Frogs & Friends
10. Case Studies
11. Resources
12. Glossary


The Toronto Zoo houses thousands of species of native and exotic plants, including more than 500 species of trees and shrubs and it is home to hundreds of different species of wild life. But the Metro Zoo's collection represents only a very tiny portion of the species found in the world.

1. During your trip to the Zoo you will see many amazing animals. As you walk through the Zoo watch them closely. Find at least 3 animals (don't forget this includes insects, birds, fish and so on) and write down something unusual that you discovered about each one. (E.g. Giant Hissing Cockroach - they are really huge and they really do hiss!) Try to find animals that are different from the ones your friends find. When you get back to school put together a list of all the amazing animals you saw and all the things that make each of them special.

2. During your trip through the Zoo look at the plants within the pavilions. Find plants with leaves that are shaped like the illustrations below. If you can, find out the plant's name or make up your own.

Linear Opposite
Palmate Pinnate
Alternate Whorled


Hippos aren't the first creature that comes to mind when we talk about wetlands, but the River Hippo plays most of its day in the water, feeding on aquatic plants. Hippos may swim more than 30 km per day in search of food.

The hippo's eyes, ears, and nostrils are on top of the hippo's head. This allows them to keep their bodies underwater while breathing and keeping an eye out for danger.

1. Find another wetland animal at the Zoo with similar adaptations (i.e. eyes, ears, & nose on top of head) and sketch it.

Walking on water. . . or mud

Many wetland animals and water-dwellers have broad or webbed feet. Broad or webbed feet help them to swim or prevent them from sinking into the soft wetland soils.

2. Find at least three Zoo creatures with webbed feet:

Name    			Does it swim or live in a wetland? 




Soaking Wet? Not really.

Birds and mammals that spend a lot of time in water need ways to keep themselves from becoming water-logged or from losing body heat. Some species may have oil glands that provide the oil to waterproof their fur or feathers.

3. Look for animals that appear to have oil glands. (Hint: Look for animals grooming, and read signs. If you are not sure, write down the animal's name and do some research when you get back to school!)

Natural Snorkels!

A few of the many air-breathing, water-dwelling wild life species have long, snorkel-like noses. An Australian species, the Fly River Turtle, is known locally as the "Pig-nosed Turtle".

4. Look for one of these "snorkel-nosed" wetland species in the pavilions at the Zoo. Watch them for a few minutes. How does their special nose help them to survive?



AT THE ZOO . . .

Blending in...

Amphibians protect themselves in many ways. Many of them are coloured green or brown to blend in with their surroundings. Some species, like the Malayan Leaf Frog, have camouflage that is so well-developed that they are almost invisible in their natural surroundings.

1. Find two zoo creatures that are camouflaged.

Warning Signs!

Most frogs and toads depend on camouflage to hide themselves from predators but there are members of this family, like the Arrow-Poison Frog of South America and the Tomato Frog (from Africa) that depend on bright colours to warn off danger.

2. Find another animal at the Zoo that has bright colours.

Why do you think it has bright colours? (When you get back to school research your answer.)

The Giants!

African Giant or Goliath Frog is the largest of all frogs, and can grow to 66 cm in length and weigh as much as 4.5 kg. Of course, the largest North American frog is the bullfrog and, if it is left undisturbed to grow up in favourable conditions, it can reach a length of 46 cm and weigh 0.5 kg.

3. Find three other "giants" at the Zoo.

Hanging On . . .

There are many tree frogs found in North and South America, Europe and Asia. Their toes are developed into suction-cup-like disks that permit them to climb trees, clinging to smooth surfaces, such as the underside of leaves (for smaller frogs, of course!), tree trunks and branches. Some Asian Asian species feet are webbed and appear almost fanlike. Using these large feet they can "parachute" to the ground from considerable heights. This has led to the common name "flying frogs".

4. Find two Zoo animals that are specially built for life in the trees.

a)  Animal:


b)  Animal:


Some species of Canadian amphibians hibernate to survive winter. They use lakes, streams, animal burrows or underground chambers in rock or under tree roots to avoid the killing cold of winter. Desert-dwelling species, like the Australian burrowing frog or the South American horned frog, protect themselves from drought in a similar way. They burrow underground and slow down their body processes to enter a hibernation-like state is called aestivation. When the rains come and soak through to its hiding place, the frog is revived and comes to the surface.

5. Find an animal at the Zoo that avoids inhospitable weather by burrowing underground or moving into the water.


Find a Zoo animal that uses aestivation or hibernation to survive inhospitable weather conditions.


Wild life take care of their young in many different ways and amphibians are no exception. While many amphibians lay their eggs in a nearby pond and then leave them to fend for themselves, others have developed some very unusual ways of taking care of their young.

The Surinam Toad (Americas Pavilion) has an unusual way of incubating and protecting it eggs. After courtship, the male presses the eggs into the female's back. The female's skin swells and encloses the eggs. When the eggs are ready to hatch, more than 100 tadpoles will "pop" out from the mother's back!

1. Find a Zoo animal that has a different or unexpected way of caring for its young. (Hint: It may have an unusual way of incubating its eggs or perhaps the father or other family members care for the young. Look at the exhibits and the signs for hints.)

Many wild life species undergo metamorphosis, an dramatic change in their body state as they pass through different stages in their life. Frogs and toads start as eggs, become tadpoles, and then emerge as four- legged adults. But other animals, like butterflies, pass through dramatic life stages too! For example, Monarch Butterflies begin as eggs, become caterpillars, a pupa, and then emerge as an adult butterfly.

2. Find two Zoo animals that do not look like their parents. (Hint: The difference may be big, like caterpillars and butterflies, or it may be smaller, for example the young may be a different colour, have different markings, or type of body covering (e.g. down on ducklings) than the adults.)

If you walk through the woods or by a wetlands on a warms summer's evening one of the most outstanding sites you might see are myriads of mini-frogs and toads. Although the frogs and toads have gone through many great changes in their short lives, they now look just like their parents.

3. Find at least three Zoo animals where the young look like their parents. Are these babies born or hatched looking like their parents or have they gone through a metamorphosis?

Marsupial frogs (Gastrotheca spp.) spawn on land, and as the eggs are laid, the male directs them with his back feet into a pouch situated on the female's back. One hundred or more eggs may be stored in this way. The eggs are carried for three to four months, by which time they are large tadpoles. The female takes her brood to a suitable pool and uses the toes of her back feet to scoop them out. From here, they develop in the normal way.

4. During your visit to the Zoo keep yours eyes open for real marsupials. Write the name of any marsupials you find during your visit. Hint: Most marsupials come from Australia.


1. Find a comfortable resting spot in one of the pavilions. Listen quietly for five minutes. ( Hint: No talking. If you have trouble concentrating close your eyes for a minute.)

  1. What is the loudest call that you hear? (Write it down phonetically, and, if you know who made the sound, write down the animal's name -- don't forget "animal" includes birds, frogs, etc.)
  2. Compare the overall noise to something you know. (For example, this pavilion was as noisy as the playground during recess, or as noisy as Kennedy Subway Station during rush hour.)
  3. Estimate the number of different calls that you heard. If you can, write down some of the calls phonetically.
  4. Who made the most noise in this pavilion - the animals or the humans? (Something to think about - some animals are sensitive to noise and it is better for everyone if people respect each other and the animals by avoiding loud noises, shouting and other disturbances.)

2. The tiny Puerto Rican Treefrog is less than 5 centimetres long, but is capable of producing a noise louder than a subway train. The sound can be deafening to someone in close proximity to the source. The call consists of a two note whistle. The first note is produced to warn other males of their territory, and the second note attracts females. Why do you think that a forest dwelling treefrog has such a big voice?

3. Choose an aquarium with fish. Watch the animals as they move. Do you see any signs that they are communicating with each other?

  1. What reasons would fish have to communicate with each other?
  2. How do you think a fish could send a message to, or communicate with, another fish?

4. In front of the Ontario Wetland Exhibit (Americas Pavilion) there is an interactive display of frog calls. Take a moment to listen to the calls. In Southern Ontario, the first frogs begin to call the last week of March. In central Ontario, frogs call the first week of April, and in northern Ontario frog calls can be expected in late April. Calls and breeding periods may last several weeks for some species or just a few days for others. Why do you think frogs starting calling at different times the farther north you go? Why do you think different species have different mating periods?

5. Humans communicate in many of the same ways as animals, by sound, body language, facial expressions, and, although some people don't like to admit it, by smell. One very human way of communicating involves the use of symbols, such as the letters used in writing or by drawing. Visit the Australasian Pavilion and look for the reproductions of aboriginal cave paintings. Sketch three symbols you see. What do you think each symbol might mean?


Every living plant and animal has a scientific name. These names consist of two or three words that are derived from Latin or they are a "Latinized" word from another language or "Latinized" peoples' names. You will find the scientific names of many of the Zoo's residents on the signs near their exhibits.

1. For some animals, the scientific name may be similar to the common name, for example the Lowland Gorilla's scientific name is Gorilla gorilla (subspecies gorilla). During your zoo visit find two animals with similar scientific and common names:

Scientific Name			Common Name

_______________  _______________	_______________

_______________  _______________	_______________

2. Sometimes scientific names refer to a geographic region. For example, many North American animals use the word "canadensis" or "americanus"in their scientific name. Find a Zoo animal whose name includes either "canadensis" or "americanus" or another name that relates to a geographic region.

Scientific Name			Common Name

_______________  _______________	_______________

3. Scientific names may refer to the size of the creature, such as pygmaeus (dwarf),or giganteus (large, giant), or to its colour, such as rufus (red) or nigra (black). Find a Zoo animal whose scientific name tells something about its size or colour.

Scientific Name			Common Name

_______________  _______________	_______________

4. Write the scientific and common names of two cats you see during your trip to the Zoo. (Note: At the Zoo, cat names begin with one of the following: Achinonyx -----, Felis -----, Felix -----, Panthera -----,or Pantheris -----.)

Scientific Name			Common Name

_______________  _______________	_______________


1. When you visit the Zoo animals that are endangered or that are at risk of becoming endangered are marked with a special symbol. List the names of the "at risk" species you see during your visit to the Zoo. Why do you think each different species might be in danger? (Hint: A some of the exhibits the signs might give you some answers.)

Animal at Risk

Why might it be in danger?

2. Visit the Polar Bear exhibit. The arctic is a very fragile ecosystem and the animals that live here are vulnerable to change. At the exhibit you will find a sign "How Can Pollution Here Harm Polar Bears". Write down the key points below.

3. What could you do in your own life to help the Polar Bear or one of the other endangered animals you saw today during your visit to the Zoo?


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