By Zoe Keane
The call of the wild has proven impossible for elephant expert Gerry Creighton to ignore as he departs his role at Dublin Zoo after 36 years.
The second generation zookeeper from Stoneybatter is embarking on a new adventure as he takes up a role working with zoos across the world as a specialist elephant care consultant.
Gerry has been a keeper at the Phoenix Park zoo since he was 16, following in the footsteps of his father Gerry Snr who worked there for 51 years before retiring, and his brother James.
Reflecting on his long career – or some might say vocation – looking after the animals Gerry shared a heart-warming story fondly recounting his experience with a chimp called Lucy.
Revealing how he took her home to care for her after her mother rejected her at birth, he told Dublin Gazette there was a special satisfaction in giving her a daily structure.
He said: “Lucy won the hearts of me and my family. Chimps are so expressive, they’re like humans, the effort we put into her.”
News of Gerry’s departure comes just weeks after he lent his voice to Dublin Zoo’s desperate plea to for donations as the pandemic bites – with over e2.4m in public support as well as government funding.
Now that the public have given Dublin zoo a lifeline until spring, Gerry can rest relatively easy. However, packing up after almost four decades was not an easy decision for him to make.
And he’s certainly not cutting any ties. Gerry will still work closely with Dublin Zoo as an elephant consultant.
He emphasises the importance of education enthusing that he wants to “share the knowledge that I’ve gained over the last 36 years within the zoo”.
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He added: “The zoo holds a very solid international reputation particularly for elephant wellness and elephant care.” Gerry plans to share this model with other zoos around the world.
He has also set up his own consultancy business where he wants to give advice and practical knowledge to zoos internationally on human care and help create habitats that are designed for the need of global elephant care. But it’s not Gerry’s first gig.
Throughout his career he has been key note speaker for many events and has attended schools to educate primary, secondary and third level students on the future of animals and human care, “presenting is a great skill to have in getting that message out there”.
Gerry speaks passionately about elephants and became fascinated at an early age by their empathy, emotional intelligence, and how they invest in and care for one another.
“They’re a special species with special requirements in human care. Its about trying to move towards a global standard of care that I think I can have a positive influence on.
“It’s really to be an ambassador for the elephants” Gerry said.
One of his prerogatives is to encourage those involved in animal care to revitalise environments that are outdated.
Dublin Zoo’s progress from a Victorian red brick institution to what is now a conservation model adopted around the worldwide is a good example.
Gerry said: “A lot of the facilities are older, and they need to modernise, they need to come up to a protected contact standard so that humans don’t share space with the animals. Dublin Zoo has done that so successfully.”
Explaining that the zoo had gone through a very difficult period with COVID-19 he added: “I’d like to give a felt thanks to the people of Ireland that helped raise €2.6 million.
“Please continue to support us and visit when you can. We were overwhelmed by the support.”
To donate or find out more visit www.dublinzoo.ie.