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Depressed lions and tigers, but a positive visit to Dublin Zoo
Member Name: julwhite
Advantages: Good range of animals, lots of development work going on which is really positive
Disadvantages: A little expensive, some more information about the zoo's conservation efforts needed
This review is of Dublin Zoo, situated in Phoenix Park in Dublin, a walkable distance from the city centre.
Dublin Zoo presented me with a range of emotions. My visit, in March 2011, was on a sunny morning, just after the zoo opened. The atmosphere of a zoo can be much more alluring when there are few other visitors, the sound of the animals becomes more important, and as much as a zoo can manage to achieve, it feels like you are just a little closer to the animals.
One of the first enclosures that I saw was the lion enclosure, which was quite small, and I struggled to see more than one lion. As it transpired, there was just one, a 22 year old lioness called Sheila, with the zoo waiting for her to pass away before they bring a new pride of lions in to replace her. It's a strange feeling standing looking alone through glass at an animal which looks so dejected.
This was a feeling that I had later on when looking at the tigers in their enclosure, with one tiger just pacing around the outside perimeter of the cage, time after time, entirely unaware and lacking interest in the human eyes which followed her.
These fortunately though were the only real sad moments, a throw back to the times when Dublin Zoo was much smaller, and animals were put in cages to be looked at by interested visitors. I personally like zoos, I understand the disadvantages, but they nonetheless fascinate children, and bring them closer to understanding wild animals, how they live, and what we can do to help them.
And in recent years, Dublin Zoo has been able to increase the space that it has, and has started to build larger displays so that the animals have more space to move about in. Work was going on during my visit on building a new gorilla enclosure, to replace the rather cramped conditions that they have now. With so much more space, my thoughts went from looking at dejected animals, to being able to watch the animals in a much more natural environment.
One of the zoo's largest new areas is the savannah, where rhinos, giraffes, zebras and ostrich can be seen. This area opened in 2009, and there is a large amount of space for the animals, which can be seen in various places at different times by following the path which winds around the area. When I was there, this path was cut off due to work on the gorilla enclosure, but from next year, you can walk around the entire path in one long loop.
Another area which has been newly constructed is the elephant enclosure, where you walk along a path, spotting the elephants at various points along it. It certainly makes it more interesting for children, who have to play a hide and seek game looking for the elephants, although the children rarely struggle to eventually find a good viewing spot to see the elephants, they are a little too large to hide for long.
I won't go through every area in the zoo, but will say it covers a large range of different animals. Areas such as the reptile house are quite small by comparison with other zoos I've seen, but they still cover snakes, crocodiles, tortoises and spiders, and the bird cages have an interesting selection of different species. I did wonder about how easy it still seems to steal a penguin by reaching over into their enclosure, which wouldn't be the first time, as this really happened a few years ago when the zoo had to recover their penguin from O'Connell Street in Dublin's city centre.
There are generally good facilities, toilets were basic but clean, the zoo's cafe was pleasant and tidy, and the paths and bins throughout the site were well maintained. The signage in the zoo is a little weak, especially as there is no free map, this is a chargeable extra, and sometimes it's not entirely clear where various animals are housed. The zoo isn't so large however that you can't discover everything by just wandering, so this isn't too much of a difficulty.
Entry price is 15 Euros for adults, 10.50 Euros for children, although family tickets are available. These aren't cheap entry prices, especially as the zoo has placed many refreshment stands temptingly around the site in a plan to take more money from children, or more precisely, their parents. But, with some planning, watching the shows which are held every couple of hours, eating a picnic lunch maybe, you could easily entertain the kids for four or five hours here, if your children are interested in animals and don't mind some walking.
What I didn't experience was a great deal of enthusiasm from the keepers, one feeding the orangutans didn't look very engaged, there were often two or three keepers walking around talking to themselves, and I have seen at other zoos much more participation from the keepers, and approaching visitors and children to tell them more. But, I was there on a quiet visitor day, and no doubt keepers are busy. And to their credit, I caught a few episodes of "The Zoo", a TV series about Dublin Zoo filmed by RTE, and the keepers came across as very caring and engaged on that.
The engagement I saw from the zoo keepers on the show, and the way the zoo was run generally did impress me. Of course they would no doubt like more space, more enclosures, but it's great to see so much work going on, and so many improvements being made. Another complaint I would make is that they made very little of their conservation work, the zoo's web-site and the TV series contained a lot of details of how much they were doing in conservation, which wasn't signed at the zoo. It would have been interesting if it had of been, maybe giving a better all round perspective to the zoo's work.
But overall, I did enjoy my visit, it's an easy zoo to find, accessible by foot or bus from the city centre, and I remember my minutes watching the Sheila the lioness with fondness! Lots more details about the zoo can be found at http://www.dublinzoo.ie/.
Summary: Worth a visit, especially if you have kids!