Michael D Higgins opens sea lion cove in Dublin Zoo

President pays a visit to his neighbours to launch wildlife park’s new attraction

Dublin Zoo’s sea lions have moved into their new Cove habitat which features a deep saltwater pool and a viewing area to observe the colony of sea lions underwater through glass.Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

President Michael D Higgins’s neighbours are a noisy lot with their grunting, squawking and squealing. What else do you expect when you have Dublin Zoo in your back garden?

However, despite his close proximity to the zoo, Mr Higgins’s arrival to open the sea lion cove marked his first official visit to the wildlife park since he took office in 2011. The zoo was certainly on its best behaviour.

The flamingos were tickled pink with the attention, and even the monkeys looked pensive as Mr Higgins waxed lyrical about the zoo’s role in preserving the diversity of the earth’s species.

Mr Higgins proclaimed himself delighted with his visit. “I want to say what a wonderful day it is to be here to visit the neighbours.

“Without a doubt, a day trip to the zoo has been a special highlight for generations of Irish children and adults.”

Sea lion cove

The key attraction of the sea lion cove is a viewing area where visitors can watch the mammals swimming underwater. Mr Higgins and his wife Sabina peered through the glass at the sea lions as they swooped and dived in front of them.

Viewed from the other side of the cove, it looked like the presidential couple were so impressed with the facility that they had plunged underwater themselves.

“They really know how to strut their stuff,” Ms Higgins said, after the mammals caught a few fish and honked happily.

Sea lion team leader Eddie O’Brien said the new habitat was one of the best he’d seen anywhere. “This new pool was built in the lake of the zoo and it’s salt water, which is pretty amazing.”

As well as being its nearest neighbour, Mr Higgins also has a family connection with the attraction, as his son John produces RTÉ’s The Zoo.

“Everytime I’ve seen that programme I’ve been so struck by the importance of those who work in the zoo, the extraordinary care of putting the animals first,” Mr Higgins said.

Then, in the best tradition of neighbourliness, he was invited to have a cup of tea.

“Don’t leave it as long again,” Dublin Zoo director Leo Oosterweghel might have been tempted to say as he waved off the presidential couple.