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Chambers at Large: Back in Dublin Zoo

Having adopted an Okapi at Dublin Zoo last year I decided to make a return trip to see the baby that had been born back in August. Now I cannot say for sure that the photo is of the calf, but I was thrilled to be able to be so close to this shy, retiring animal and as the breeding programme is so successful I will adopt an okapi later this year.

There have been a few changes since my last visit. The one way system that was put in place after the epidemic has been removed and people can now move around much more freely in order to see the animals. I headed straight for the snow leopards’ enclosure but, as they are active at dawn and dusk, they were having a midday nap under a rock and didn’t look as if they were going to make a move anytime soon!

The grey wolves were much more active and were prowling around their compound like the ones I had seen in Wild Ireland in Donegal back in February. ( They are a formidable pack, sleek and alert, more interested in each other than the people watching.

Far more aware of the human visitors the California sea lions put on a great show. Playing the old game “King of the Castle” they took it in turns to knock each other off the central rocks, the winner barking its victory with undisguised glee.

The red ruffed lemurs were in a playful mood too, chasing each other and then laying out in the afternoon sun. For a small animal they have an incredibly loud strident call, a howling bark, much louder than that of the sea lions!

Eating their midday meal by the side of their enclosure were the rhinoceros (or is it rhinoceroses?) I took a step back when one rhino encroached on the hay of another and a scuffle commenced, the intruder quickly backing off. Like Joey in Friends it seems some rhinos do not like to share food!

The giraffes were eating too and I managed to get a glimpse of their blue tongues. I only read about this feature recently with scientists unsure as to why, although it has been hypothesised due to the increase of melanin in that part of the body it is to prevent the tongue from becoming sunburnt.

The red pandas have a new habitat and were enjoying each other’s company. The breeding programme at the zoo has been very successful and red pandas were born back in July, which is fantastic. Fingers crossed for more of this endangered species.

Another new arrival was a pack of Chinese Dhole or Asiatic wild dogs. I had never heard of them before and there are only about two thousand of them left in the wild. Like the sea lions, the lemurs and the wolves they were actively enjoying their afternoon sniffing around their enclosure and playing. May they will thrive in their new home.

The zoo’s work in conservation and involvement in European breeding programmes is commendable. The Waldrup Ibis is a critically endangered species with less than 250 wild in Morocco and less again in Syria and Turkey. The colony in Dublin zoo is a testament to the hard work done by the staff to keep these birds a part of our world.

Predation, loss of habitat and hunting are the principal causes of why animals are disappearing from our planet. When looking at the gorillas, one cleaning the other, who lay back and, if I’m not mistaken, almost smiled, I recalled how these animals were hunted and their hands/paws sold and used as ashtrays! How diabolical is that? I hope the human race has evolved a little since then, although viewing recent figures regarding climate change it seems little is being done to prevent damage to our planet and I fear for future generations.

However, as long as Dublin Zoo and other zoos around the world do their level best to conserve and care for the wildlife I will continue to my support and I hope when I visit next year there will be more red pandas, more okapi, more Waldrup Ibis and, if I go a little earlier or a little later, the snow leopards might be awake!


To view my blogs of earlier visits to Dublin Zoo, click on the links below:

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I enjoyed your report on your latest visit to the Dublin zoo. Last week George and I went to the Columbus (Ohio) zoo with his daughter, son-in-law and 4 yr-old granddaughter. Zoos have certainly improved since my childhood, but I'd say the Columbus zoo is the best one I've ever visited....especially considering that we were with a pre-school child. Not only are the animals in "natural habitat" as with the Dublin zoo, but there are life-size bronze statues of some animals around that children can climb on and even several mini-playgrounds in the various geographic theme areas of the zoo. The playgrounds let the young children do more than just walk and look--a valued acknowledgement to the short attention s…

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