Wednesday 18 September 2019

Wolf pack puts more bite into Dublin Zoo now its members have a new home

Director of Dublin Zoo, Leo Oosterweghel. PHOTO: MARK CONDREN
Director of Dublin Zoo, Leo Oosterweghel. PHOTO: MARK CONDREN
Fiona Dillon

Fiona Dillon

Visitors to Dublin Zoo are about to be thrown to the wolves.

A new attraction next year will provide a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the resident pack of lupines in the Phoenix Park.

The zoo attracts more than a million visitors a year and all surplus profits go back into improving the zoo, "whether that's redesigning an animal habitat or building new facilities such as the new Discovery and Learning Centre which opened in October", according to director Leo Oosterweghel.

"In 2019, we have an exciting new opening, 'Wolves in the Woods'. The grey wolves at Dublin Zoo are fascinating animals and the new habitat will provide the pack of 10 animals at the zoo with a wonderful new space," he revealed.

He said there are no new arrivals, in terms of animals from other zoos planned to join the zoo during 2019. But there was a baby boom at Dublin Zoo during 2018, with more than 100 new arrivals.

He told the Irish Independent the high point of the year for him was the many births, which included three scimitar-horned oryx calves, a species classified as extinct in the wild. Among the other births were three Californian sea lion pups, an Asian elephant calf, two Rothschild giraffe calves, two red-ruffed lemur pups and 11 Chilean flamingo chicks.

However, he said: "In 2019, we are planning to say farewell to the largest animal in Dublin Zoo, Upali, the Asian elephant bull.

He has fathered seven calves in the six years he has lived at Dublin Zoo. It is hoped when he is moved to Le Pal in France as part of a European breeding programme, he will father more calves."

It was another busy year for the zoo, with one of the biggest developments being the opening of the Discovery and Learning Centre, a state-of-the-art facility for environmental education which includes two classrooms, a lecture theatre and a discovery centre.

The €3m centre was officially opened by President Michael D Higgins and provides immersive education programmes in biodiversity, wildlife conservation, ecology and zoology for schools and colleges throughout Ireland.

Meanwhile, Wild Lights, the night time event, returned for its second year. With a new theme, 'Ocean of Light', visitors were treated to an entirely new cast of illuminated silk lanterns, inspired by the wonders of the life aquatic, including hammerhead sharks, colossal blue whales and dainty seahorses.

This year, the event also saw the addition of three new areas - Winter Wonderland, home to Arctic favourites such as polar bears and walruses; Celebrating China, bringing a flavour of the Orient; and The North Pole, home to Santa's workshop, a 16-metre high silk Christmas tree and a host of displays.

"We are continuously re-investing in the zoo, building world-class habitats that closely reflect the animals' natural environments, and are committed to offering a memorable day out to all our visitors," Mr Oosterweghel said.

He pointed out the facility also supports numerous conservation projects in the wild.

2018's new arrivals

:: One Asian elephant calf: At the beginning of the year, Dublin Zoo welcomed the birth of an Asian elephant calf. Proud mum Anak gave birth to the healthy male calf on Saturday, February 10, after a 22-month gestation period.

:: Two Rothschild giraffe calves: Two weeks after the birth of its Asian elephant calf, Dublin Zoo welcomed more new arrivals - two Rothschild giraffe calves, one female and one male, born on February 13 and 25 respectively.

:: Two red-ruffed lemur pups : On April 13, two sibling red-ruffed lemur pups were born at Dublin Zoo, one male and one female. Red-ruffed lemurs are native to Madagascar.

:: Three California sea lion pups: Dublin Zoo announced the birth of three California sea lion pups over the course of two weeks in June 2018. The pups, one male and two females, are the offspring of father Niko and proud mothers Florence, Seanna and Cassie.

:: Three scimitar-horned oryx: On July 26, August 2 and October 3, 2018, Dublin Zoo welcomed three scimitar-horned oryx calves, bringing the herd at Dublin Zoo to a total of nine. The scimitar-horned oryx was once widespread across northern Africa, but due to overhunting, habitat loss and competition with domestic livestock, the species has now been classified as extinct in the wild.

:: Eleven Chilean flamingo chicks: In August, 11 Chilean flamingo chicks hatched after a 30-day incubation. The Chilean Flamingo is famed for its striking pink plumage with crimson feathers along the edge of the wings.

Dublin Zoo will be open over the Christmas period with the exception of Christmas Day and St Stephen's Day. Its opening hours in December are 9.30am-4pm, with last entry at 3pm


Irish Independent

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