By Kim O’Leary
BOTH staff and animals at Dublin Zoo are preparing to welcome back visitors on April 26 as lockdown restrictions are eased.
It follows an announcement by the Government confirming after the reopening of outdoor attractions, which include zoos, pet farms, and heritage sites.
The zoo confirmed it will be welcoming the public back to the popular location – but this will be done at a reduced capacity and under strict health and safety protocols due to Covid-19.
Initially, the Phoenix Park attraction will only allow 20% of its capacity in the park to avoid crowding, people will have to book online and it will operate in one-way system.
The survival of the zoo has been dependent on the public after it had to fundraise to get the animals through winter, with no income coming in due to the pandemic.
The Save Dublin Zoo campaign received €1.1 million in government funding, on top of over €2 million in generous donations from the public.
Speaking to the Dublin Gazette this week, director Dr Christoph Schwitzer said that they are all very excited and looking forward to welcoming back visitors.
“We are all very excited about the reopening, it’s a big relief for all of the staff and the animals as well, it’s been a tough year for us being closed. We had incredible support from the Save Dublin Zoo campaign, it’s a good buffer for the winter.
“We couldn’t have predicted the strength of the response we received from the Irish public, and we are truly grateful to everyone who has contributed to the campaign to date.
“At the moment this summer is not a problem but next winter could potentially be something we have to look at,” said Schwitzer.
Dr Schwitzer said that some of the animals even miss the visitors in the zoo. “Some animals are indifferent to visitors but then there’s some animals that miss having visitors. Our great apes are really keen on having visitors around,” he added.
Dublin Zoo intends to remain cautious as it slowly reopens, with visitors asked to book slots online so to keep numbers down.
Dr Schwitzer said that they are hopeful that Dublin Zoo’s new measures will protect visitors and staff.
“Hopefully more people will get their vaccines and we are going to control the number of visitors to the zoo by asking people to book online, with visitors in hourly slots,” he said.
Despite the effects of Covid-19, life went on at Dublin Zoo with a number of new animal arrivals expected this spring.
“This year has seen new arrivals among some of the most vulnerable species in the wild, including an energetic male southern white rhinoceros calf, two adorable Humboldt penguin chicks, a beautiful Siamang gibbon and most recently, a tiny Goeldi’s monkey to name a few.
“The Zoo now has around 500 animals, 80 species including the invertebrates. We’re also waiting to see if there are more arrivals this spring, we have to wait and see,” explained Dr Schwitzer.
It’s also been an exceptional year for Dr Schwitzer who came to his new role as director of Dublin Zoo in August 2020.
“I started last August in the middle of the pandemic, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. I am really hoping that this summer will allow for a bigger number of visitors compared to last summer,” he said.
Dublin Zoo first opened its doors on September 1, 1831. Founded as a private society by anatomists and physicists and supported by wealthy subscribers.
Now, utterly transformed, its 28 hectares is attracting over one million visitors a year. Officially Ireland’s biggest family attraction, not only offers a great day out for all, but also a journey of learning and discovery about the world’s precious wildlife.
Tickets for Dublin Zoo’s reopening will go on sale online before 26th April and people are asked to book their tickets by visiting www.dublinzoo.ie