This past weekend my friends and I took a trip to the Dublin Zoo located in Phoenix Park. The park is situated on the Western end of the city just North of the River Liffey. It is a massive park with a large system of walking paths surrounded by beautiful plants, large fields, and peaceful ponds and lakes. The park also consists of a massive obelisk, visible from virtually everywhere in the park, as well as the Irish president’s estate and the American Ambassador’s House.
It was a perfectly sunny day that we chose and everyone seemed to be in an enlightened state of mind after weeks of rain and clouds. Immediately upon walking into the zoo’s front entrance it struck me how beautiful and humane the habitats were. Directly in front of us there was a body of water with multiple, large islands consisting of green grass, trees, and some very happy monkeys. These monkeys were free to move about as they pleased using rope and log bridges to travel from one land mass to another. It looked as if this was a safe haven for the animals, rather than an exhibit for humans.
As we kept on walking we were able to see a wide variety of mammals. Some of these creatures included these gorgeous Amur and Sumatran Tigers, California Sea Lions, the rare Grey Wolf, the incredible Bornean Orangutans, the Western Lowland Gorillas, etc. One major thing that I took note of was the peaceful, nonchalant attitudes of all these different creatures. At other zoos that I have toured, many of the animals you encounter are aggressive, for example the Gorillas at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. The Gorillas there give people dirty looks, often let out loud shrieks of anger and frustration, and I have even seen some come up and punch the glass windows in a fit of rage. These gorillas were completely docile and paid no mind to the human spectators. I attribute this to their gorgeous, extensive, and wild-like habitats.
I could not put a spotlight on my absolute favorite part of the day, though one of the things that truly amazed me was the African Plains section, specifically the Savanna habitat. This habitat was absolutely enormous and formulated to perfection for the Savanna animals. There were Giraffes, ostriches, Rhinoceros, Zebras, Oryx, and more. There were large expanses of grassland and sandy/dirt plains, tall trees for the Giraffes to browse and munch, and it was all visible and undisturbed by a winding path for us humans to meander about. Again, they all seemed to be living in peace, out of harm’s way and free to roam and frolic as they please.
Another thing that really made this zoo stand out so much compared to other zoos that I have visited was how close and personal you could get to many of the animals. I could practically reach my hand out and touch one of the Giraffe’s heads, the various African monkey species, like the Western Low Land Gorillas, were only separated by a chest high fence and a 20-30 foot water way. This was an incredible experience considering other zoo’s will usually have thick, bullet-proof glass or a large pit for many of the animals.
As I mentioned previously, the zoo consisted of many unusual species of animals, even for a zoo where that kind of thing is to be expected. In the reptile house there was the Nile Crocodile, about 3 feet and some inches long, when this creature stood still it looked like a stone sculpture and blended in very well with it’s surroundings. In the South American house there was the Bolivian Squirrel Monkey, a yellow, black, and white little guy standing about a foot or so tall with tons of energy, one of the cutest animals of the day! There was also the two towed sloth, an animal I have been wanting to witness in person for quite some time. There was also the Pygmy Marmoset, known for being the smallest monkey in existence, they are about 3-6 inches tall and their tails are the same length. These Marmoset’s call in a bird like shriek to communicate in the trees and camouflage themselves with the other sounds of the jungle.
It also really pleased me to see that they were taking initiative everywhere you looked to educate people on the effects of environmental destruction to each specific animal. They included advice on what you can do to help and the initiative they take for each species accordingly. An example of this was one of the vulture birds, there is a huge problem with the poaching of these birds for their feathers so the Zoo actually sustainably plucks feathers from their birds and sends them to people for clothing. This does no harm to the bird and slows the need for poaching of them. In the Sea Lion demonstration the announcer spoke thoroughly on the effects of litter on these marine mammals and even trained one to grab a plastic bottle and put it into the recycling binI would suggest to anyone visiting Dublin to make it a point to visit the zoo, as well as taking a stroll through Phoenix Park. I would advise getting out there early and making a full day of it and also to wait for a nice, sunny day when you can really enjoy yourself and take your time. Another reason being that the animals are more likely to be out and about on these beautiful, sunny days. It is great to see a zoo that really caters to their animal’s well-being and health even more than they care about catering to the human tourists. This is not to say that it is not beautiful and comfortable for us, we just do not take priority over the animals having a life in comfort. Excellent day, amazing wildlife, and great friends! Cheers to that!
Henry S Schwartz
Champlain Abroad Dublin, Spring 2014
Champlain College, Environmental Policy and Business Administration 2015