Baby boom attracts a million visitors to Dublin zoo

 

An unprecedented baby boom at Dublin Zoo is set to draw a record one million visitors through the turnstiles this year — for the first time in its 177-year history.

A total of 905,000 people entered the Phoenix Park attraction in 2007 but the patter of tiny feet has boosted interest among families and schools so far in 2008.

The past year has already seen the arrival of two young giraffes, a white baby rhino and a Californian sea lion calf.

And in coming weeks the babies are set to be joined by a gorilla, a snow leopard and up to a dozen flamingos.

“The patter of little feet has definitely brought more people through the gates, and everybody is talking about breaching the one million visitor barrier in coming months,” said one zoo keeper.

“Everybody loves babies even if they weigh 70kg when they are born! The baby boom has generated a lot of media coverage and public interest. Some people have come here who have never been to the Zoo and there has also been repeat visits by others as word of mouth spreads.”

Last year also saw the first-ever elephant born in the Republic of Ireland - baby Asha - and the purpose-built habitat, Kaziranga Forest Trail was later built for  the Zoo’s Asian elephants.

Meanwhile, the run-down Haughton House building in Dublin Zoo is being refurbished and it will re-open later this year as a learning and discovery  centre.

The new structure will be surrounded on three sides by a wooden veranda from which the new Kaziranga Forest Trail can be viewed.

The Zoo’s sister facility, Fota Wildlife Park in Co Cork saw 362,000 visitors last year, a 21 per cent increase on 2006.

Its Cheetah Run habitat is a popular attraction and keeps the animals fit and healthy.

PA