Dublin Zoo holds the distinction of being the third oldest public zoo in the world – only those in London and Paris have been in existence longer. Located in Phoenix Park, the zoo was founded in 1830 with only one wild boar in residence. The zoo is noted for its lion breeding program, and since the 1850’s, more than 700 lions have been bred here- no small feat, since lions have been bred successfully in captivity in very few locations worldwide. The most famous resident is probably the MGM trademark lion. Legend said that his famous roar was in fact a yawn, and the voice of an American lion was dubbed in to created the ferocious roar.
Over 700 animals live at Dublin Zoo, and breeding programs are not exclusive to lions, but are also dedicated to increasing the populations of rare and endangered species, such as the Snow Leopard. A variety of tropical animals roam their areas in unbarred enclosures designed to replicate the natural environment as closely as possible. Arctic species make their homes in the lakes located near the reptile house. In total, the 60-acre zoo contains more than 235 species of wild animals and tropical birds.
The extremely popular African Plains section of the zoo operates the Nakuru Safari Tour, a 25 minute journey through a savannah where giraffes and lions roam along with other animals from the Serengeti. The South America House is a strikingly ornate structure housing some of the more exotic species, including golden lion tamaris, two-toed sloths, and squirrel monkeys. For refreshment, visitors go to the Lakeside Café for drinks and ice cream in summer, and take advantage of numerous picnic areas, playgrounds, and gift shops scattered throughout the zoo.
Other popular Dublin Zoo attractions:
- The Discovery Centre, which displays the world’s largest egg
- The Zoo Train, loved by children, it runs all summer and on weekends in winter
- The Meet The Keeper Programme, which allows visitors to observe animals as they feed and to interact with their keepers
- The recently renovated Big Cat Compound
- Pet’s Corner City Farm, filled with guinea pigs, lambs, goats and other petting zoo varieties
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