When we lived in Dublin, Dublin Zoo was always one of our favourite places to go. Membership is pretty good value and you don’t have to go many times to make it financially worthwhile, not to mention the fact that the money is going to a good cause. Being members also makes a trip to the zoo more enjoyable, I feel: it takes away the pressure to see everything in one trip and encourages more visits. It was therefore great to visit the zoo this week during our trip to Ireland.
This time, we went with my niece and nephew (aged four and two), so the animal priority list was shifted slightly and we headed to the Family Farm first. Like a lot of the zoo, this has changed since our last visit (2007, maybe?) and features fewer guinea pigs and bunnies in favour of more real pigs and other farm animals - including some rather cute piglets (right).
Next up (on my priority list) was my perennial favourite, the Red Pandas. Whilst they eat bamboo and come from China, Red Pandas are actually more closely related to racoons that the Giant Panda, which is a bear. (Their lineage diverged from Giant Pandas somewhere in the order of 40 million years ago, versus 30-35 mya with raccoons and skunks.) Red pandas are a bit less fussy about what they eat than their fellow Carnivora namesakes and, unlike Giant Pandas, do also eat meat (birds, mammals and eggs) although they always look far to laid back to actually hunt for anything, so I am guessing this is primarily by scavenging. Like cats, they are very cute snoozers.
Some excited noises alerted us to the sealions being fed and after watching them chow down for a while, we headed to the ever-charming Meerkat Restaurant for some nosh of our own. This is great for the kids because, in addition to child-friendly food, one wall of the restaurant is a large viewing window in the meerkat enclosure, providing entertainment too. Currently, this entertainment includes three little meerkat cubs (below). I was also impressed by the food itself, which was pretty good for a zoo - freshly cooked real burgers!
After lunch it was time to check out the new African Savanna section of the African Plains area of the zoo. This has been heavily reworked since we were last there and now features an elevated walkway around the giraffe, zebra and rhino enclosures, giving great views and potential close-ups of the giraffes.
Another new development (since our last visit) was the nearby Gorilla Rainforest island (sponsored by Freddy Fyffe’s bananas!) It was great to see the Gorillas have more space to roam and they looked relaxed in their new habitat. I didn’t see the big guy (Harry) but we did see most of the rest of the troop. (The priority spot was little Kituba, who was born a couple of days apart from my nephew, who brought his own gorilla named Kituba to the zoo.)
I didn’t get any pictures of the gorillas but I did get a good one of Sibu, the big male Orang utan, who was seemed to be happily chilling out and possibly pondering the mysteries of life like a Zen master.