Wednesday 22 November 2017

Call of the wild: record 1m visitors to Dublin Zoo

The Asian lion cub at Dublin zoo. Photo: Patrick Bolger
The Asian lion cub at Dublin zoo. Photo: Patrick Bolger
New babies: the Rothschild giraffe. Photo: Patrick Bolger
Emma Jane Hade

Emma Jane Hade

The pitter-patter of 50 new sets of hooves, paws and claws helped to ensure that Dublin Zoo experienced its busiest year ever in 2015.

Bosses at the family attraction said that almost 1.1m people will have passed through the gates by the end of the year.

The one millionth person to visit the zoo in 2015 arrived on October 10 this year, 19 days earlier than 2014's record-breaking figure.

Zoo director Leo Oosterweghel said there are a number of strands to this continuing success story, including the new redesigned 'Sea Lion Cove and Flamingo Lagoon' and the arrival of 50 new animals, including the new Asian lion club.

"We believed that 2014 would be a year that we would find difficult to equal in terms of visitor numbers. But we did it and we went over it," Mr Oosterweghel said.

"2015 is going to be the absolute record year, we might just hit 1.1m. I am absolutely delighted.

"The Sea Lion Cove opened in the spring and people love it. It is a beautiful spacious, complicated, challenging and enriching habitat for our Californian sea lions. It has underwater viewing. It was opened by our President, people flocked to come to see it. Our flamingos have a new aviary too."

Kamala, the zoo's new Asian lion cub, joined the five-strong pride in June, which includes his older siblings, Kyna and Kuno. There are believed to be just 400 of the endangered Asian lions left in the world.

Mr Oosterweghel explained that the zoo was once famous for its lion breeding in the early half of the twentieth century and that it is now simply "revisiting" that tradition.

The three elephant calves who arrived between July and September 2014 also continue to be a major attraction.

"That was incredible. They are growing up very harmoniously, it is very enjoyable to watch," the Dutch native added.

Other arrivals throughout a busy 2015 included a Californian sea lion, an eastern bongo calf, one Rothschild giraffe, 24 farm animals and a red panda.

"We are creating the Orangutan Forest. It will be ready for spring. We are crafting these beautiful rainforest trees, we are making them and they look very real, very beautiful. We are redesigning the space.

"We are not planning for more animals. Our strategy really is to look after what we have first."

The popular RTE programme 'The Zoo' will also return to television screens next year for a seventh series.

"There will be another eight episodes of the programme, they are not sick of us. The programme has evolved too," Mr Oosterweghel said.

He joined the the zoo 15 years ago and currently lives within the walls of the Phoenix Park attraction.

"It is fascinating. You get a feeling for how the animals spend the night. You hear the lions call and during the summer you hear the wolves howl. But they don't wake me up any more."

Irish Independent

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