Dublin Zoo celebrates a milestone year

by Alison O'Hanlon
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Dublin Zoo Southern white rhinoceros calf

The last twelve months add up to another busy and fruitful year for Dublin Zoo.

They’ve welcomed new arrivals, made a home for Ireland’s first aye-ayes in the new Nocturnal House and launched the National Centre for Species Survival. Add the launch of Dublin Zoo’s first Conservation Education Master Plan and the 2023-2031 Sustainability Master Plan, and it is clear 2023 was a year of progress towards Dublin Zoo’s goals set out in the Dublin Zoo 200 strategy.

The year began with an exciting announcement, welcoming the birth of a Southern white rhinoceros calf, born on January 2nd. Another addition to Dublin Zoo was announced later in the year, as a white-naped mangabey joined the troop on September 26th. The arrival of youngsters from these endangered species is a significant success for Dublin Zoo’s breeding programmes and broader conservation efforts. 

Ireland’s first aye-ayes in Dublin Zoo’s new Nocturnal House

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman TD officially launched Dublin Zoo’s first ever Conservation Education Master Plan in June 2023. The Plan, which sits under the overall ‘Dublin Zoo 200’ strategy, aims to cultivate the next generation of conservationists to help achieve Dublin Zoo’s mission to save wildlife.

With over one million people visiting per year, and over 60,000 of these arriving in learner groups, Dublin Zoo is in a strong position to harness the opportunity for the Irish public to join it on its conservation journey.

Summer 2023 saw Ireland’s most popular family visitor attraction unveiling its newest habitat, a Nocturnal House, now home to Ireland’s first aye-ayes, a lemur species native to the island of Madagascar. The new habitat has been built specifically to meet the needs and unique ecology of this nocturnal species. Visitors enter in complete darkness, guided by small lights to navigate safely and observe the animals.

 Dublin Zoo white-naped mangabey
Dublin Zoo is delighted to announce the birth of a white-naped mangabey to its troop. Picture Patrick Bolger Photography

August was a busy month as Dublin Zoo invited adventurers of all ages to discover species big and small through a series of educational weekends, beginning with prehistoric dinos, followed by World Elephant Day celebrations and an SSE Eco Explorer Weekend. The fun did not stop here, as every visitor for the month of September was in with a chance to win a Lifetime Pass to Dublin Zoo, with one Golden Ticket being given away every week.

A trip to the Zoo is a beloved childhood memory for many generations of Irish people, and Golden Ticket winning entrants received a lifetime pass to enjoy their favourite attraction for years to come.

Dublin Zoo’s new National Centre for Species Survival was officially launched by Malcolm Noonan TD, Minister of State for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform in November.

A particular focus of this Centre is the conservation of native Irish wildlife, complementing Dublin Zoo’s work with their current conservation partners in Ireland; such as Bat Rehabilitation Ireland and the Irish Peatland Conservation Council.

In October, Dublin Zoo revealed the exciting theme of this year’s award-winning Wild Lights event: The Enchanted Zoo, featuring fairies, mythical creatures, vibrantly coloured animals, a gnome village and even a dreamlike candy land, lit up as beautiful silk lanterns. From November until January, visitors can visit Wild Lights to be greeted by the enchanted Wizard, and choose their own adventure from a choice of three pathways to explore.

A thrilling addition to the exhibition this year is the lake display, with laser beams lighting up a water fountain show complete with animations and sounds for the full enchanting experience. A Sensory Friendly Wild Lights Night was held in November, making the Wild Lights experience accessible for guests with sensory sensitivities, their families and groups.

Discover the secret life of Dublin Zoo as Wild Lights returns this year with a spectacular theme: Enchanted Zoo.

Commenting on 2023, Dr Christoph Schwitzer, Director of Dublin Zoo, said “The past year has seen extremely important progress for Dublin Zoo, with some milestone moments in our conservation journey. With ongoing support from the Irish Government through the Office of Public Works, it has been possible for us to launch the new National Centre for Species Survival, critical to species conservation efforts in Ireland and beyond as we work with the international community to protect and save species.”

Dublin Zoo will be open over the Christmas period with the exception of Christmas Day and St. Stephen’s Day.

Dublin Zoo’s opening hours throughout December are 9.30am-4pm, with last entry at 3pm.

Wild Lights is open from 5pm-9pm, with last entry 8.00pm. Wild Lights will run until January 14th 2024, and there are still a limited number of tickets available online. Wild Lights tickets must be pre-booked online in advance of your visiting Dublin Zoo.

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