Dublin Zoo (Irish: Zú Bhaile Átha Cliath), in Phoenix Park, Dublin is the largest zoo in Ireland and one of Dublin's most popular attractions. Opened in 1831, the zoo describes its role as conservation, study, and education. Its stated mission is to "work in partnership with zoos worldwide to make a significant contribution to the conservation of the endangered species on Earth".
Covering over 24 hectares (59 acres) of Phoenix Park, it is divided into areas named World of Cats, World of Primates, The Kaziranga Forest Trail, Fringes of the Arctic, African Plains, Birds, Reptiles, Plants, City Farm and Endangered Species.
In 2008, Dublin Zoo received 931,866 visitors.
The zoo is part of a worldwide programme to breed endangered species. It is a member of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), which helps the conservation of endangered species in Europe. Each species supervised by the EEP has a single coordinator that is responsible for the building of breeding groups with the aim of obtaining a genetically balanced population.
Dublin Zoo manages the EEP for the Golden Lion Tamarin and the Moluccan Cockatoo. It also houses members of the species Goeldi's monkey and the white-faced Saki which are part of EEPs coordinated by other zoos. The focus is on conservation, which includes breeding and protecting endangered species, as well as research, study and education.
Rodrigues Fruit Bats:
Rodrigues fruit bats are one of Dublin Zoo's endangered species. Fruit bats, as their name suggests, feed on fruit and because of that are very important to the rain forest. Bats cannot digest the seeds and pips of the fruit that they eat and so the seeds leave the bat's digestive system "wrapped" in fertilizer. Without bats, many rain forest trees would not be able to sow their own seeds.
Dublin Zoo has recently completed a larger Asian Elephant enclosure (complete with Asian rainforest) and the Nesbit House(bat house) has been demolished. The Rodrigues fruit bats are now in the Robert's House (or bird house), which is located beside the Ring-tailed Lemurs).
Golden Lion Tamarins:
This tiny monkey, named for its beautiful golden colour and the long hair around its head which resembles a lion's mane, is one of the rarest primates in the world. Golden Lion Tamarins, like many of the other Tamarins found in South America, are threatened with extinction in their natural habitat. Dublin Zoo is involved in the international breeding program and helps to fund researchers who study the Tamarins in Brazil.
The forests that Golden Lion Tamarins need in order to survive are cut down for timber and to make room for cattle ranches, farms and urbanization. Sometimes very small areas or 'pockets' of forest are left but these are too small for the Tamarins to survive in. In the past, Tamarins were collected for sale to the pet trade or for use in research laboratories. The Golden lion tamarins are located in the South American house.
Dublin Zoo holds the European studbook for Moluccan Cockatoos. A studbook is a record of all the individuals of a particular species that are held in zoos in a region. It contains information such as the sex of the animal, how old it is and who its parents were. This information is then used to decide which birds should be paired with which to get the best genetic mix. This ensures that the captive population stays as genetically healthy as possible. Moluccan Cockatoos are handsome birds, white-with-a-hint-of-pink feathers and a pink colour on the crest. This cockatoo is on the endangered species list.
Dublin Zoo, then called the Zoological Gardens Dublin, was opened on 1 September, 1831. The animals, 46 mammals and 72 birds, were donated by London Zoo.
In 1833, the original cottage-style entrance lodge to the zoo was built at a cost of £30. The thatch-roofed building is still visible to the right of the current entrance.
In 1838, to celebrate Queen Victoria's coronation, the zoo held an open day - 20,000 people visited, which is still the highest number of visitors in one day.
In 1844 the zoo received its first giraffe.
In 1855 the zoo bought its first pair of lions. These bred for the first time in 1857.
Reptiles got their own house in 1876.
The first tearooms were built in 1898.
On 17 June, 1903 an elephant named Sita killed her keeper while he nursed her injured foot. She was put down by members of the Royal Irish Constabulary.
Times of trouble and war also caused problems for the zoo. Meat ran out during the Easter Rising of 1916. In order to keep the lions and tigers alive, some of the other animals in the zoo were killed.
A lion named Slats was born in the zoo on 20 March, 1919. According to 'Dublin Zoo: An Illustrated History by Catherine De Courcy' it was one of many lions filmed by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio in 1928 to be used as their mascot Leo.
As the result of protests against the standard of animal housing and welfare, led by former keeper Brendan Price, a "Plan For The Future of Dublin Zoo" was prepared by the Zoological Society of Ireland and the Office of Public Works. In 1994 it was presented to Minister of Finance Bertie Ahern. The government granted the zoo IR£15 million (€19 million) for improvements. Themed areas were decided on and the first, World of Primates, opened to the public in 1996. The latest, African Plains, opened in 2001.
African Plains, opened in 2001, covers 13 hectares. Animals in the African Plains include Bongos, African Lions, African Wild Dogs, Red River Hogs, White-crowned Mangabeys, Chimpanzees, White Rhinos, Hippos, Giraffes, Zebras, Ostriches, Gorillas and Scimitar-horned Oryx (this species is now extinct in the wild). The African Savanna Exhibit opened in April 2009.
Fringes of the Arctic:
There are no longer any Polar Bears at Dublin Zoo because the enclosure was too small for them. It was enlarged to house three Amur Tigers (one male and two females), the largest species of fullblood cats in the world. Amur Tigers, unlike other tiger sub-species, live in the cold north. The area also includes Grey Wolves, Arctic Foxes, Snowy Owls and Humboldt Penguins.
The Kaziranga Forest Trail (Elephants):
The two original Asian elephants in the zoo, Judy and Kirsty, came from Chester Zoo in 1991, and later moved to Neunkirchen Zoo in Germany.
A new enclosure is being built that will be 50% bigger than the old one. Two adult females, Bernhardine and Yasmin (who are sisters), and Yasmine's calf, Anak, arrived in Dublin Zoo from Rotterdam Zoo in October 2006. They are in quarantine and will be on view to the public in 2007.
Bernhardine gave birth on 7 May 2007 to the first elephant ever born in Ireland. The zookeepers' recording of baby Asha's birth was broadcast afterwards on television.
The following letter was published in the Summer 2007 issue of the zoo's news magazine, Zoo Matters:
Early on the morning of Monday, 7 May, Bernhardine, one of our Asian elephants gave birth to a healthy female calf.
The birth took place in total darkness and was carefully monitored by the keepers via special CCTV cameras fitted with infrared lights.
At 2.30am, a large swelling had appeared, indicating that the calf had moved into the birth canal. At 2.39am the calf emerged. Two minutes after the birth the calf could be seen moving and eight minutes after the birth the baby elephant stood upright. At 2.49am, the baby elephant took its first steps, much to the delight of zookeepers.
It was a completely natural birth, without any complications. We could observe the other elephants, Yasmin and Anak, offering their support to Bernhardine and taking great interest in the calf. We are all so delighted with the birth of our healthy baby elephant and there is a real buzz of excitement in the zoo as a result of the birth.
You will be able to see Bernhadine and her calf, and other elephants, Yasmin and Anak in early June when their purpose built Asian Elephant habitat, The Kazaringa Forest Trail is unveiled, and the calf is strong and healthy.
Leo Ooosterweghel - Director of Dublin Zoo.
The enclosure, which opened on 28 June 2007 with four elephants, includes a waterfall, a river, a path with many impressions (elephant footprints, human footprints, deer footprints and plant impressions) a children's playground, a small viewing area, a large semi-sheltered viewing area where visitors can sit down, two elephant pools, two feeding areas, toilets, a large house in which visitors can see the elephants, plentiful vegetation and educational signs.
One of the two older elephants, Yasmin, gave birth to a male calf on 17 February 2008. It has been named 'Budi' which means "the wise one" in Hindi.
World of Primates:
The World of Primates houses apes and monkeys, and Western Lowland Gorillas. The exhibit opened to the public in 1996. The area comprises a string of man-made islands in a natural lake. The islands range in size from 15 to 30 square metres and are linked by wooden bridges to sleeping quarters on the lake shore.
Some of the islands have climbing frames. Areas of each island have been sectioned off with hot-wire to facilitate the growth of vegetation and give each island a more natural appearance. On some islands, areas of foraging substrate, such as bark, have been provided to facilitate scatter feeding.
The provision of large viewing windows in the sleeping quarters gives the public access to what is generally an off-show area in many zoos. However, there are areas where the animals can hide from the public.
The islands mentioned above are inhabited by siamang gibbons, red ruffed lemurs, eastern colobus monkeys, spider monkeys, chimpanzees and Celebes macaques. Apart from the chimps, who are restricted to their sleeping quarters at night, each species has unlimited access to their outdoor enclosures both day and night.
The zoo has succeeded in breeding the primates on these islands. The Celebes macaque group have done exceptionally well since their introduction to the island, and success has also been achieved with the colobus, lemurs and siamangs.
In early 2008 an Orangutan escaped her enclosure. She had escaped for an hour and was on top of the Sumatran Tiger nighthouse before a group of school children alerted staff.
World of Cats:
Facilities for the display of snow leopards, lions and jaguars were out-dated, and it was decided that a new themed area would be the best option to meet international zoo standards. It would also increase the educational value of the area by facilitating comparisons of the cats' behaviours. The World of Cats exhibit opened in 1998.
The jaguar enclosure has an open top - containment is achieved through an overhang and hot wire. The outdoor enclosure is twice the size of their previous accommodation, and a separation pen has been constructed for breeding and introduction purposes. Natural substrates and shade are augmented by timber platforms linked by walkways and a pool.
The snow leopard enclosure has been designed to resemble their rocky natural habitat. The snow leopards blend in so well with the granite background that the public spend time trying to locate them. This has been turned to educational advantage with the use of graphics relating to the use of camouflage by predators. The grassy bank at the back of this long, linear enclosure is a shade area for the animals. The enclosure has significantly improved the welfare of the snow leopards and it should contribute to continued breeding successes. Three snow leopard cubs were born May 2006, two females and a male, although the male died soon after.
A third large big cat enclosure is occupied by the Sumatran tigers, and the vegetation in the area reflects this. A large pool and waterfall has been incorporated into the design. Raised areas give the animals views across the zoo lake.
Each enclosure in the World of Cats is furnished with pools, natural substrates, and shade. The public can see the animals through large windows. Access has been provided for the public to the sleeping quarters of the felids, which, like the primate housing, is a departure from the normal procedure of maintaining sleeping areas off-show.
The jaguar died on 4 December 2008. There are now no jaguars in the zoo.
City Farm and Pets' Corner:
The City Farm and Pets' Corner was completed in 1999. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the goats, donkeys, cows and ponies, which are housed in open-air paddocks. Rare farm breeds are maintained in this area, including the Kerry cow, the Galway sheep, and the Kunekune pig. Another popular animal is the turkey.
In the Pets' Corner visitors can see popular pets including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits and canaries. The dogs are all Labradors.
South American House:
This house has South American animals most of which are primates including the critically endangered Golden Lion Tamarin. It has Three-toed sloths, White-faced Saki, Squirrel Monkeys, Goeldi's Monkeys and Red-footed tortoises which have bred successfully, and their offspring are available to see in the Reptile House.
The Reptile House was opened in 1876 and now includes Nile Crocodiles, African Rock Pythons, juvenile Red-footed tortoises, Pancake tortoises, Leopard tortoises, African spurred tortoises, Desert locusts, and Nile Monitor lizards.