The founding organisation of Dublin zoo, the Royal Zoological Society of Ireland, was founded in 1830. It didn’t take them long to decide a Dublin zoo should be established. As usual during this period in history of zoos the only purpose was to have as many exotic animals as possible on display. The animals were supplied by the London Zoo.
In recent decades the Zoo has been transformed into a 28 hectare park of gardens, lakes and natural habitats for over 400 animals.
Full history narrative to be added.
At the end of my visit in 2014 I decided to return to Dublin Zoo after all the scheduled major renovations — orangutan exhibit, Chilean flamingo pond and California sea lion exhibit — would have materialised and ready to be admired. So, it took me 15 years to return to Dublin Zoo after my initial visit, but only 2.5 years since my second visit and my next purchase of an entrance ticket.
It’s an absolutely beautiful day in early spring when my main goal is to have a look at the new outdoor enclosure for Bornean orangutans, Orangutan Forest, opened in June 2016. It is early Monday morning and still very quiet in the Zoo when the orangutans’ co-inhabitant, the siamang, are already outside on their island. This is also true for the large troop of Sulawesi crested macaque (Macaca nigra) on their island close to the Zoo entrance. With a good track record of breeding this Critically Endangered monkey species the current troop at Dublin Zoo comprises many youngsters. All the macaques enjoy the early morning sun, and it is obvious that the operant conditioning of all of them, including the young ones, has been very successful. Just watch the video in which all the macaques make their way to where they think the zookeeper is waiting for them with food. However, the sound that triggered them was not made by the zookeeper but by maintenance people.
The Orangutan Forest is a great improvement compared with the previous situation for these great apes. The original outdoors is now connected to a large elongated island in the natural lake that provides a habitat for native waterfowl and a good place to house primates on islands. It is an extension to the island that was originally the domain for siamang, but now it has been made accessible for another arboreal species — the Bornean orangutan. In the wild both species spend the majority of their time in the trees of their native habitat in South East Asia. Hence, the enclosure comprises eleven trees, between 7 and 12 metres high that will encourage the orangutans’ natural climbing behaviour. Five trees on the island are artificial and interconnected with ropes. These ropes allow the apes to travel between the island and the original outdoors in front of the orangutan House. The artificial trees have a lift inside to deliver the main portion of the apes’ diet to the top of the trees. The new enlarged island also comprises some large natural trees that seem to be the siamang’s favourite. In my memory the previous siamang island had more trees available for these gibbons brachiating through the treetops, though. So, the conditions for the siamang looks to have deteriorated somewhat, although the total size of their enclosure increased. This is definitely the case for the outdoor enclosure of the orangutan, because it is five times bigger than their old home, now 1,300 m2.
Passing the two lemur islands, one for red-ruffed lemurs and the other for ring-tailed lemurs, I head for the Flamingo Lagoon. Unfortunately, the Flamingo Lagoon is slightly disappointing. Visiting the walk-through Chilean flamingo pond (Lagoon) is one of my goals today, but it is closed to visitors due to the arrival of avian flu in Ireland. All birds moved indoors as a precautionary measure to prevent any contact with wild — possible infected — birds. I have to settle for a view at the facilities and the steel construction from the outside. Being a walk-through exhibit means that they don’t have to mutilate the flamingos any more, which can be considered a cruelty that impairs the welfare of the birds.
From the Lagoon it is only a few steps to the Sea lion Cove, which was also under construction during my previous visit. They created a nice pool for the California sea lions, but basically it comes down to a design that is used in many zoos for many years — a public stand around a pool with an area where the animals are trained to be more co-operative during routine check-ups for instance. It just has been made a bit more appealing with the stand constructed as if it is a natural rock formation. The rest of the Sea lion Cove with the vegetation, such as gunnera, and the creek is in fact more interesting.
As said last time the wolves must have been longing for the construction work of the Flamingo Lagoon and Sea lion Cove to be finished, not because of having sight of some nice enclosures but mainly because of the removal of the annoying loud machinery and equipment. However, the loss of that excitement was replaced by the introduction of eight new grey wolves from Osnabrück Zoo (Germany) to the existing pack, in March 2016 .
The African Plains is next on my tour menu today, but not before I have a look at the Amur tiger exhibit and the magnificent big cats. When entering the African Plains area the first thing I do is head for the hippopotamus enclosure, because I totally missed that one last time. Though nicely situated at the border of the lake, it is not an impressive exhibit. It has paddocks with different kinds of substrate, grass and sand, and a pool that is not much more than a large bathtub. The outdoor enclosure connects to the hippo house that provides a tub as well. A little bit further along the shore of the lake there’s another pachyderm exhibit, for white rhinoceroses, with the indoors being part of the same building as the hippo house. The outdoor paddock for the rhinos directly connected to the rhino house can be considered a separation area, because the real thing is the African Savannah area — to be reached from the outdoor paddock via a tunnel. The rhinos have their own space in the African Savannah, separated by boulders from a mixed-species exhibit with scimitar-horned oryx, Rothschild’s giraffe, ostrich and common zebra. This whole area is spectacular and will provide regular visitors many hours of pleasure while watching the animals and their routine. And I expect the same must be true for the Gorilla Rainforest where the western lowland gorillas and red-capped mangabeys (Cercocebus torquatus) enrich each other’s lives. A superb place to walk around and see the animals enjoying their varied environment with many types of vegetation and undulating grounds. Via the chimps, and white-crowned mangabey, African wild dog, Abyssinian ground-hornbill, African spurred tortoise, red river hog, okapi and bongo on the other side of the lake I leave the African Plains again.
When I make my way to the exit I see that improvements are still ongoing at Dublin Zoo, a sign of a sound financial situation. A major renovation to fully restore the Roberts House has just started and will give the oldest animal house (1902) a new function. It was originally built for the lions, but in 2014 it housed Rodriques flying fox, and red-crested turaco, Mauritius pink pigeon, great Indian hornbill, and Victoria crowned pigeon in a walk-through aviary. However, after the renovation it will be the Zoo’s brand-new home for reptiles of the past and present, Zoorassic World. My final exhibit today is the Reptile House, which is to be replaced by Zoorassic World. And rightly so, because the old-fashioned row of vivariums are definitely outdated. Nonetheless, some interesting rare species are kept, such as the Annam leaf turtle which had not been seen in the wild since the 1940s. Recently a tiny population has been discovered in central Viet Nam. Most of the Annam leaf turtle natural watery habitats have been cleared to grow rice. Moreover, it is in grave danger from illegal hunting for food and traditional medicines. The Reptile House is a bit of a disappointment at the end of the day, however, the mere fact that the reptiles in due time will be housed according to modern standards and the enormous improvement of the orangutan outdoors facilities shows that Dublin Zoo stays on top of things.
It is in November 2014 during a spell of dry, sometimes even sunny, but cold weather when I visit Dublin Zoo for the second time. Much has happened in Dublin Zoo since my previous visit in 1999. The Zoo more than doubled its size from 12 hectares to 28 hectares. While at the same time the number of species were reduced. As you can imagine this has led to larger enclosures. Even better, the enclosures became more naturalistic and with more enrichment features, especially the exhibits in the new part — the African Plains.
Dublin Zoo is located at the north-eastern edge of Phoenix park, the largest park in the City of Dublin. This means that the Zoo is part of the original parkland with a very rich vegetation. But what makes the Zoo grounds really stand out from many other zoological facilities are the two large natural lakes that more or less split the area lengthwise (see the Zoo map). The lakes constitute a large proportion of the total surface area and merely provide a habitat for native waterfowl and a perfect place to house primates on islands.
Directly after the entrance the smallest lake is straight in front of me. Without anything much to see on the lake I quickly decide to go clockwise around the Zoo grounds and turn left. In the Asian Forest area the first species on display is the Asian lion, a species of which the entire wild population of about 350 can be found in one place — the Gir Forest in India. One of the lionesses is outside while the other lioness, the cub born 11 August 2014, and the male, are kept behind the scenes in more sheltered outdoor areas. Nevertheless, the very playful cub can be heard and seen from one particular spot. In the actual, rather dull and grassy, outdoor exhibit there’s little shelter. So, the lioness and the other cub — born 31 May 2014 — can be seen from almost every place through the wire mesh fences and the viewing windows. This serves the public very well, but a few good hideouts for the lions in the enclosure would have been nice. The births of the two cubs — both sired by a male lion that came to Dublin from Rotterdam Zoo in 2013 — have been much celebrated at the Zoo.
Adjacent to the lions, the Sumatran tigers are housed in a similar enclosure. This time, however, the wire mesh fences at the public side have bamboo in front of it to provide the big cats with some privacy. There are only two viewing windows. A small pond in front of both viewing windows is a meagre enrichment feature in my opinion and the total lack of raised platforms, for the cats to observe their surroundings, is questionable. Bamboo bushes and four trees, of which two may be used as scratching post, ensure that the tigers have more vegetation in their enclosure than the lions, but still the animals are rather exposed I would say.
Opposite these predator enclosures two breeding groups of Sulawesi crested macaques are housed on two islands in the lake. The scientific name (Macaca nigra) of this Critically Endangered species is not mentioned on the regular conservation status info panel (see Signage), but another panel with generic info on the species trumps the educational level of the other. The islands have ropes running in between, while they are connected to the indoors facilities on the main land as well. To travel between the two islands via the ropes looks like a real challenge for the macaques. Both the islands offer a variety of enrichment for these ground-dwelling monkeys with trees, shrubs and boulders — an interesting playground.
While moving on to the orangutans I pass the snow leopard enclosure, which is quite disappointing. It is not easy to create naturalistic features for this elusive cat that lives in the bare rugged mountainous area of the Himalayas, but I have seen other zoos where they did a better job. The area is rather secluded though, because there are just a few viewing access points in the wooden fence of the elongated exhibit. But there is absolutely no cliff to climb for the three snow leopards or lie down on an edge as they would do in their natural habitat. Nevertheless, head rubbing and scent-marking can be done everywhere as you can see in the video below:
Scent-marking by a snow leopard
It is just a big cat isn’t it? As if the snow leopard first is making sure that this is the right spot to scent-mark, then the actual act is taking place:
Following the footpath that goes slightly uphill I arrive at the Bornean orangutan house which definitely dates from another era of enclosure design than the enclosures I’ve seen so far. The house is situated uphill and gives on a lower level access to a small outdoor peninsula with three dead trees enriched with ropes. The natural light inside the building provided by the moderate number of skylights makes it hard to see things, especially on a winter’s day. However, I recognise many tree trunks and some other enrichment features. From the upstairs passage in the house a large glass wall allows viewing at the not-so-impressive outdoors at the lower level. Fortunately for the orangutans the Zoo wants to improve their environment by creating more space with much more climbing enrichment. The envisaged improvement of the enclosure is expected to materialise in 2016.
On the lakeside opposite the orangutans the beautiful island for the siamangs comprises large trees and shrubs. As I don’t see any siamang outside I imagine them to brachiate through the top of the trees. Like gibbons would do in the canopy of the Asian rainforest, their natural habitat.
Then the Asian section comes to an end and the next primate island houses the hooded spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi grisescens), which is a subspecies of Geoffroy’s spider monkey, a New World monkey from Central America (see video). Followed by the lemur islands, one for red-ruffed lemur and one for ring-tailed lemur. These islands with primate species from Madagascar are small but allow the animals to roam around freely in the vegetation, including some large trees.
There is major construction ongoing at the top of the lake opposite the grey wolf enclosure where new habitats are being created for Chilean flamingos and California sea lions. This means that those species are not on display until spring 2015 when these new exhibits will be ready and opened to the public. The wolves are looking forward for the new exhibits to be opened as well I think, because it must be a noisy and busy environment when actual work is taking place. Today, however, all workmen seem to have a day off. All is quiet and the wolves — at least the five I am able to discover in the high grass between the boulders — take a nap. Probably waiting for the next moment in the feeding schedule. Or not, because they look very well-fed and have left some of the previous meal for the magpies to feast upon. The wolves’ enclosure is situated on a hillside that can be quite steep and has enough space for the animals to roam out of sight.
I decide to stick to the ‘old’ part of the Zoo grounds first and tour the ‘new’ African Plains area (since 2000) in the afternoon, because I expect the latter to be the best part of this historic zoo. Hoping for a ‘grand dessert’ at the end of the day so to speak. So, I get around the construction site and cross the grounds to the other side of the lake where I arrive at the circular red panda enclosure. Most of the red panda enclosures are circular nowadays, more or less resembling the old-fashioned bear pit, with one or more trees to mimic the panda’s native habitat. Unfortunately the large natural tree in this exhibit is off limits for the little rascals. They are provided with an artificial wooden rack for them to climb on and some dens made from sewer pipes. Red pandas sleep a lot to save the little energy they get from their plant based diet (mostly bamboo), but there’s one that is very busy scent-marking its territory (see video).
For a quick lunch I walk back to the entrance where the Meerkat Restaurant is situated. And like the name suggests it indeed includes, besides an eatery, a meerkat exhibit. So, you can view these fun-to-watch exploring little predators from inside the restaurant while you have something to eat, and they keep an eye on you .
From here I continue my tour but not before having a look at the old Entrance Lodge that was built in 1833, and remained in use until 1968. Due to its historical importance it was restored in 1971 and has since been maintained as a historical feature of the Zoo.
The South American House, close to the Meerkat Restaurant, is the main centre for display of new world monkeys. The House comprises inter alia two mixed-species exhibit. One holds together golden lion tamarin, pygmy marmoset and Mexican military macaw in the same exhibit, while the other contains Goeldi’s monkey, two-toed sloth and Central American wood turtle. Each of the indoor exhibits is connected with an outdoors cage built against the House. These outdoor cages all have a similar brown steel construction with wire mesh fences and filled with loads of vegetation and other enrichment features, such as tree trunks. Indoors they have created a jungle-feel using moist soil and ground-cover plants in the exhibits, while the squirrel monkeys have got an enormous amount of sturdy large bamboo stems in their exhibit.
The Roberts House, the oldest animal house in Dublin Zoo, is just a stone’s throw away from the South American House and was originally built for the lions when they were regarded the most important species in the Zoo — which was in 1902. It now houses the Rodriques flying fox, with which the Zoo has achieved quite good breeding results, and several bird species. The main part is now a walk-through aviary with red-crested turaco, Mauritius pink pigeon, great Indian hornbill, and Victoria crowned pigeon that makes weird grumpy sounds.
When I am almost back at the red panda enclosure there is a little surprise waiting at the lakeside. Near the path in an enclosure that looks like a hidden quarry with an artificial rock face rear wall and a roof of netting the Waldrapp ibis and little egret have space to do more than only spread their wings. Although this aviary is not too bad I have seen enough small cage-like exhibits by now and I hurry towards the bar-less elephant paddock.
The Asian elephant are housed together with blackbuck; the two small herds of species seem at ease with each other, although there is the odd exception of temporary incompatibility (see video). If you follow the Kaziranga Forest Trail you get different views on the outdoor exhibit of the elephants. The trail navigates along a small waterfall as well and is mostly hidden due to the lush vegetation. You’ll see the pond in an amphitheatre design where it must be great to watch the pachiderms having a bath. But during my visit no bathing takes place. The elephant house is rather small, but it seems there is another house which is not accessible for the general public.
From the elephants I cross to the other side of the lake again where the three Amur tigers are kept in an enclosure that is situated uphill. Because of the small hill the tigers can easily move out of sight just over the ridge and be invisible for the spectators. Nevertheless two of them are relaxing close to the viewing window. The pond in the exhibit is sufficiently large to allow for a total submerge when the tigers need to cool down in summer. Other enrichment is provided by various trees, deciduous and coniferous, of which none are protected from the cat’s scratching behaviour. Unfortunately, apart from the hilltop, there are no raised posts for the animals to rest and observe the surroundings. Due to the ongoing renovation works at the Chilean flamingo and California sea lion exhibits, close to the tiger territory, the arctic fox and small-clawed otters cannot be visited.
Then it’s time to visit the African Plains, the major extension to the original Zoo grounds which more than doubled the size of the Zoo to 28 hectare at the turn of the century. The Nakura restaurant which is kind of a gatekeeper of this area provides great views on the largest of the two lakes and therefore could be an excellent starting point for my tour along the exhibits with African species. Unfortunately I am running out of time, so I go straight to the African savannah — no coffee for me. Apart from the walk-through aviary in the Roberts House this is the first landscape immersion exhibit I encounter. These 2.2 hectares are home to a mixed group of large African species. The Rothschild’s giraffe, common zebra, ostrich, and the scimitar-horned oryx share one part of the exhibit, while their neighbours, the southern white rhinoceros are kept separate from them by a barrier that consists of large boulders. It is a spectacular sight to see the herd of 10 giraffes mix with the other species and express natural behaviour as they would do in the wild (see video), while nearby the rhinos are minding their own business. The raised footpath along the savannah provides a kind of superior look down at the animals — except for the giraffes of course. This is what you see in many zoos nowadays, and seems like a design trick to create landscape immersion and avoid bars or other kind of view blocking barriers. I do not particularly like such perspectives, but here it creates good vistas at a great exhibit on slightly undulating grounds, with a few dead trees and mud pools. The latter may have something to do with the Irish climate . The beauty of it all is that Zoo management decided not to use all available space for the animal enclosures. However, they left pieces of land to be used by the horticulturist who turned it into a nice green environment, a superb habitat for small indigenous bird and rodent species, such as wren, magpies, vole and mice.
Another large habitat, at the far end of the grounds, is the one for the troop of six western lowland gorillas. The gorillas share the island with red-capped mangabeys (Cercocebus torquatus) also known as the collared mangabey. Such a mix of species is an enrichment to life in captivity, although it is not always easy or even successful due to incompatibility of individual characters and issues with creating the right environmental conditions. Here in Dublin these primates interact with each other and are doing fine, apparently. The island has been brought to a higher level, literally, about 3 metres higher then the lake. A nice place for such a superior primate as the gorilla. The water-filled moats around the island are artificial and from the footpath around the elevated grassy island the jungle-like features are good visible. The neighbouring island for the chimpanzees is nice as well, although it has got less dense vegetation and more dead trees. The chimpanzee house has a large viewing window that allows the visitor to have look inside, but you cannot go into the house itself. The indoor facilities for the chimps looks animal-friendly with the wood chip substrate that is mixed with dry leaves. In addition there are many enrichment features such as ropes, tree trunks, hammocks, leafy twigs and puzzle feeders. So the chimps do not have to get bored. The gorilla house may actually be entered to have a look inside and shows the same design, but with less ropes.
As it gets darker, its November remember!, I have to hurry up if I want to see the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus), a species that deserves more attention by conservation organisations — including zoos — considering the threats in the wild and its current conservation status, if you ask me. The footpath to the dogs runs from the chimpanzee island along the other side of the lake and along another primate island, for the white-naped mangabey (Cercocebus lunulatus). The African wild dogs have quite a large elongated enclosure at their disposal, close to the edge of the Zoo grounds. Unfortunately the sounds of the road are clearly audible, despite the dense vegetation close to the fence at the roadside. The enclosure offers plenty of protection from the prying eyes of the visitors, with trees, shrubs, purpose-built shelters and vegetation grown along the wire mesh fence that surrounds the enclosure. I see only two dogs, but there could be more. I sure hope there are more because it is a species that lives in social groups, and two would make a lousy small pack.
The only exhibits that disappoint me here on the African Plains are the two paddocks for the okapi and the one for the bongo. Both these hoofed mammal species have rather dull straightforward grassy enclosures at their disposal, with wire mesh fences all around.
Dublin Zoo offers two different zoos for the price of one. The old part right after the entrance on the original 12 hectares comprises several old buildings with historical value and many enclosures that have been upgraded time after time to meet the requirements of the constantly improving international standards for keeping animals in captivity at zoological facilities. The Zoo should be applauded for doing so, but especially the big cat exhibits still need further improvement in my opinion. In 2000 they opened the African Plains, and this 16 hectares addition is the modern part of the Zoo with landscape immersion exhibits. It clearly shows how Zoo management moved away from having many species on display to a situation with less species in better environments. This should allow the animals to express natural behaviour — and hopefully avoid development of repetitive behaviour caused by stressful situations.
The reduction of the number of species has led to a kind of cherry picking, because the animal collection consists mostly of the usual suspects. Species that attract attention and lots of visitors, such as big cats, great apes, elephants, rhinos and giraffes. In my opinion this should be avoided and be part of the mission of the EAZA and WAZA. These associations of zoos and aquaria should organise that a larger variety of endangered species is kept at their members’ facilities and not only the attractive, beautiful and cuddly ones. The Zoo actively participates with international species breeding programmes. Some of these breeding programmes operate at an international level while others work on a regional level. Dublin Zoo has 28 species involved in EEPs (European Endangered species Programmes) and a further 11 included in ESBs (European studbooks).
Although it helps that the Zoo is located in Phoenix Park, the City’s largest park, still I want to compliment the gardeners of the Zoo who manage to keep Dublin Zoo green, very green. Not only do they ensure the vegetation to be lush and varied, it also fits the original habitats of the various species.
To save time I skipped the reptile house during my tour around the Zoo, and I have to admit that I forgot about the hippopotamus while I was enjoying the African savannah. When I wanted to return to the hippo they were already closing the African Plains section. Together with the scheduled renovation of the orangutan exhibit, the opening of the new Chilean flamingo pond and California sea lion exhibit, and the lovely parkland environment, this is enough reason to plan another visit to Dublin Zoo after 2016.
Small and old-fashioned zoo which finds itself in the middle of enormous structural alterations. Only the wolves’ enclosure looks modern and provides a more natural environment. Though still not large of course. A speciality here is the way the wolves have to work for their feed, which at the same time satisfies their hunting instinct. An underground rail has been put in place supporting a pin to which meat is attached and that can be move d around in the enclosure, just above the ground, like the artificial hare at the dog races. The wolves have ‘to hunt down’ the meat so to speak.
The two polar bears suffer from severe stereotype behaviour! It is considered to put the animals down. But, according to recent information (29.01.2010) from the research coordinator of Dublin zoo: “The two polar bears were sent to Sosto Zoo in Hungary in 2003 were they had more suitable facilities for polar bears. Since then, we no longer have polar bears.”
A relaxed morning on the black crested macaques island
The troop of black crested macaques (Macaca nigra) definitely enjoy the early morning sun. The inquisitive ones explore new boundaries or investigate strange new objects, while others engage in family bonding. The black or Celebes crested macaques are classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Hopefully, the conservation efforts of zoos with their ex-situ breeding programme will contribute to the survival of this species, when they succeed to return captive-bred specimens in the wild. The breeding results at Dublin Zoo will not be the problem.
Wrestling competition between black crested macaques
These black crested macaques youngsters are testing each other’s strength and there is one little guy who stands his ground, no matter how big the opponent. He’s my hero.
Red-capped mangabey is calling for attention
High in its tree this Vulnerable red-capped mangabey (Cercocebus torquatus) communicates with the Endangered white-naped mangabeys (Cercocebus lunulatus) that are housed across the lake. The questions and answers are clearly audible. The whole situation — the large mixed-species habitat with mangabeys and gorillas, the natural vegetation including the large trees, and the natural behaviour of the mangabeys — was the highlight of this visit to Dublin Zoo.
Effective response by black crested macaques to the sound of food arriving
Loud noises from inside their indoor enclosure immediately attracts the attention of all the black or Celebes crested macaques. They make their way to where they think the zookeeper is waiting for them with food, and some of them practice their silly walks on the rope bridge while doing so. Unfortunately for the macaques it were maintenance people that were making all the noise. Quite disappointing!
Three elephant calves, a peaceful herd and one elephant angry with a blackbuck
Three elephant calves were born within ten weeks time at Dublin Zoo in 2014. As you can see Kavi, Ashoka and Samiya are doing fine. The herd of Asian elephants seems to be a stable harmonious group although one of the mothers expresses some disturbing repetitive behaviour. The group is led by matriarch Bernhardine, the first ever born elephant in a Dutch zoo (16.06.1984). She was also the first elephant born to parents who were born in captivity in an European zoo as well. The elephants share their enclosure with blackbuck, and it is obvious that at least one of the elephants dislikes the male blackbuck.
Gorillas and mangabeys enrich each other’s life
In this mixed-species exhibit the western lowland gorillas and red-capped mangabeys live together. Keeping animals of different species together in the same enclosure is becoming common practice in zoological facilities. It is an enrichment to life in captivity, although it is not always easy or even successful due to incompatibility of individual characters and issues with creating the right environmental conditions. Here in Dublin these primates interact with each other and are doing fine, apparently.
The African savannah
The 2.2 hectares savannah area at Dublin Zoo provides a home for a mixed group of large African species. The giraffe, zebra, ostrich, and the scimitar horned oryx share one part of the exhibit, while their neighbours, the southern white rhinoceros are kept separate from them by a barrier that consists of large boulders. Unlike the zebra and oryx, the giraffe and ostrich brave the cold winter of Dublin. Two of the giraffe even engage in a play-fight by throwing some head and neck blows at each other.
Spider monkey communicating with a visitor (me!)
It could be that I looked like this spider monkey’s favourite zookeeper — you know, the one that brings the food. Or that the monkey thought, noticing the camera, that its moment of fame was about to come. Or that it was bored out of its mind. Whatever the reason, the monkey started to ‘talk’ to me and we had our few moments that morning at Dublin Zoo.
Typical scent-marking behaviour of red panda
This very active red panda is making sure the prominent places in the enclosure are marked with its scent — with a few waddles per mark.
The basic information on the modern panels at the enclosures lacks the scientific name of the species on display. This is most peculiar, because I don’t think I have seen this ever before. Not many visitors will notice, however, but for the zoo enthusiasts who want to be sure about what specific species or subspecies the animal collection comprises the scientific name is helpful. Fortunately, the Zoo’s website addresses this gap in the information. The species geographic distribution in the wild is not provided as a map, but you have to read the minimal texts given on the panels. In fact, the information panels do not provide any information on the species’ biology nor on its feeding behaviour. The info is focussed on the species’ conservation status and the Zoo’s contribution to ex-situ and in-situ conservation programmes. But they don’t mention that the conservation categories are derived from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. These are just some little things that could improve the value of the information panels in my opinion, but it could be that I expect too much of the educational value of information panels in zoos.
In addition, and in the same modern style, there are panels that provide other type of info on the Zoo’s animal collection and the habitats that have been created here at Dublin Zoo grounds. And last but not least the panels of the Heritage Trail serve those who are interested in the Zoo’s history.
Directions to Dublin Zoo
Located in the Phoenix Park, it is easy to get to Dublin Zoo. There are a range of easily accessible options to choose from: bus, train, bicycle or car.
From Dublin city centre:
Buses: Nos. 25, 26, 46A, 66 /66A /66B, 67, 69 to Phoenix Park.
LUAS Red Line: Dublin Zoo is a 15 minute walk from the Heuston Station stop.
Dublin City Council is promoting the use of the bicycle for all kinds of activities, such as commuting and leisure. On the website Cycling in Dublin a map is provided with cycle lanes in the city. Installing of cycle lanes and cycle tracks began in the mid 1990s. There are now almost 200 km of on-road cycle tracks, bus lanes and off-road cycle tracks that cyclists can use. In Phoenix Park where you can find Dublin Zoo there’s a network of 14 km of cycle lanes. There is no dedicated bicycle parking as far as I remember, but an experienced cyclist will always find a secure place for his/her bike. Make sure it is secured with a sturdy chain and lock, because bike theft happens in Dublin.
Besides several commercial bicycle rental shops, the dublinbikes scheme provides 40 public bike stations around the city with 450 bikes available for general public use.
Head for Phoenix Park. When you use SatNav, these are the exact co-ordinates: Latitude /Longitude: 53.3534, — 6.3041.
You will find car parking facilities at walking distance from the Zoo entrance. See the map for car parking locations here.