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If I Ran the Zoo!

  • JJR Macleod Auditorium 1 King's College Circle Toronto, ON, M5S Canada (map)

What do zoos do and why do they exist? We are pleased to welcome the Toronto Zoo’s new CEO, its Curator of Reproductive Programs & Research and an animal behaviorist to explore common misconceptions about zoos and spark a conversation about their role in modern society. Hear about the history and origins of zoological institutions and investigate the current state of zoos and their role in conservation. Learn what a “good” zoo looks like and who is watching out for them.



Dr. Suzanne MacDonald - Research in my laboratory is comparative in approach. We study a wide range of primate species (gorillas, orangutans, Old and New World monkeys, prosimians) in "naturalistic" environments, at the Toronto Zoo and other zoos across North America. We are also involved in several projects looking at reproductive behavior in endangered species, including cheetahs, elephants, rhinos, Vancouver Island marmots, and black-footed ferrets.

My research interests center on the cognitive mechanisms involved in foraging behaviour. A major focus of the work is on spatial memory - how do animals remember where they have been? How do animals encode and use complex information about their environments? I am also interested in the types of strategies animals use while foraging, and am looking at social foraging in several primate species. Practical applications of this work include increasing the psychological well-being of captive zoo animals through behavioural enrichment and improved habitat design.

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Mr. Dolf DeJong - Mr. DeJong is the CEO of the Toronto Zoo. He comes to Toronto Zoo from the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre (VAMSC) where he began his career as the Vice-President, Conservation and Education, in June 2012 and was then appointed Vice President and General Manager of VAMSC in June 2016.

In addition to his employment at the VAMSC, Mr. DeJong has previously worked at the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) in Hamilton as the Director of Biodiversity Programs, at Conservation Halton as the Park Area Manager, and with Ontario Parks, as an Assistant Park Superintendent at Bronte Creek, Presqu’ile and Ferris Provincial Parks. He has also worked as a Natural Heritage Education (NHE) Leader and Interpreter at Presqu’ile Provincial Park.  Mr. DeJong has a Masters of Environmental Studies from Wilfred Laurier University, a Bachelor of Education from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Science (Honours) from Brock University. 

In addition to his vast work experience, Mr. DeJong has extensive volunteer experience including roles as a director with a number of not-for-profit organizations including Alliance of Natural History Museums of Canada, Canadian Association of Science Centres and VanDusen Botanical Garden.

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Dr. Gabriela Mastromonaco - Dr. Gabriela Mastromonaco is the Curator of Reproductive Programs & Research at the Toronto Zoo. She holds a PhD in Reproductive Biotechnology from the University of Guelph and has spent the last 20 years in the field of reproductive sciences working on all aspects of assisted reproduction in both domestic and non-domestic species.

Gabriela is an adjunct professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Guelph, as well as the Departments of Biology at Laurentian University and Trent University. She is a member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums Reproductive Sciences Advisory Group (AZA-RSAG) and a board member of the International Society for Wildlife Endocrinology. Gabriela’s research focuses on understanding the species-specific differences in the reproductive biology of diverse species and developing tools to overcome challenges affecting reproductive success. Dr. Mastromonaco is the only full-time reproductive physiologist in a Canadian zoo.

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Dr. Susan Shafer (joining via videolink) - Susan is the Executive Director of Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums. CAZA is the Canadian professional organization focused on animal welfare and human safety in zoos and aquariums. Along with her love of animals, she brings to her position a career in human health and is a lifetime member of the Canadian College of Health Leaders. Susan’s doctorate is in organizational leadership, and she is now completing her last taught class in the University of Edinburgh’s Masters of International Animal Welfare, Ethics, and Law program.  

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