A DRUNKEN man risked his life breaking into Dublin Zoo to get his football back.
Gerard Golabek (33) was arrested on Monday night after he got over the perimeter fence with help from a friend.
Security staff at the zoo noticed Mr Golabek on CCTV close to the African Plains section at about 10.30pm.
Among the animals in this area are rhinoceros, giraffes, chimpanzees and zebras.
Mr Golabek said he was drunk at the time and deeply regretted the incident.
"We were just drunk and there was a ball we lost so we jumped over the fence," he said.
"I did something wrong and I'm embarrassed.
"Next time, I will just buy a new ball. I won't be climbing into the zoo again," he said.
Mr Golabek, who is from Poland, said he was not there to cause harm to any animals or try to free them.
"There was no reason to be there other than to get the ball and get back outside," he said.
Mr Golabek said he wasn't stopped until he was on his way back out. "There was nobody else there as far as I remember, but when we got out there was a garda who followed us for a couple of minutes and then stopped us," he explained.
"It was a foolish thing to do. We knew there were no animals, but it was still foolish," he added.
Mr Golabek said he was detained overnight by gardai and questioned about his actions yesterday morning.
"We had a few beers and I was drunk, and that's why they kept me overnight. They interviewed me, but they had to wait a couple of hours," he said.
"The garda asked me if I was trying to open a cage or release animals but that was not the case," he added.
He also said he was not trying to get at the rhino enclosure to steal rhino horn, which is traded on the black market to China for thousands of euros.
"A rhino is a big animal. I would not want to get close to them," he laughed.
Dublin Zoo boss Leo Oosterweghel said two young men had been spotted by rangers in the Phoenix Park trying to get into the zoo. "They alerted our night patrol security unit and the gardai, and the men were found and removed," he said.
"They thought it was amazing to climb the fence, but anyone trying that is taking a big risk because they don't know where they are and it was dark," he added. "Only trained people can mix with the animals, many of which are dangerous and could do a lot of harm, or even kill," he explained. "He was lucky he was not hurt."