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THE MORNING LEAD

Dublin Zoo to add shelters to African animals' enclosure following inspection

Overall, the National Parks and Wildlife Service found last year that animals in Dublin Zoo were very well cared for.

DUBLIN ZOO WILL install shelters in its outdoor African Savanna enclosure and was given three months to review a “pest problem” at the same enclosure following a routine inspection last year. 

Inspectors from the government’s National Parks and Wildlife Service (NWPS) carried out checks on the zoo in May 2022.

A record of their report, obtained by The Journal via a freedom of information request, shows that while the NPWS overall found the zoo’s animals to be in excellent health, with a high standard of facilities and veterinary care, there were some outstanding issues at the zoo. 

As a condition of renewing the zoo’s licence, the report ordered that it would have to install “sufficient shelter” for the comfort and well-being of the animals in the outdoor enclosures of the African Savanna exhibit. 

The inspectors also suggested that the animals in these enclosures should be provided with additional “browse” foods when they are outside. 

This popular exhibit, which is the zoo’s largest, is home to giraffes, southern white rhinos, ostriches, zebras and oryx. 

Dublin Zoo has told The Journal that it has not yet installed the necessary outdoor shelters, but that it will later this year, which is still within the timeframe provided for in the inspectors’ report. 

The zoo said it has met all of the other conditions that were imposed by the inspectors within the given timeframes.

The inspectors also asked the zoo to ensure that the needs of some animals were being met, in terms of temperature gradients, adequate UVB lighting, ventilation and humidity. 

The inspectors ordered the zoo to conduct daily monitoring of the living environments for the red-footed tortoises, the African tortoises, and the primates in the South American House, which include monkeys, sloths, and birds that are native to rainforests. 

The zoo was given four months to complete these reviews, and to correct any environmental parameters found to be outside of the expected range. 

The zoo was given three months to carry out a “documented investigation” into a “pest problem” at the African Savanna. The inspectors imposed a condition on the zoo that required it to review any pests and their impact, and to take steps to ensure “effective control”. 

The zoo was given a year to install window grills or gates in the service areas of hazardous animal housing, “in order to prevent the escape of an animal that may have breached the main enclosure”. 

The inspectors praised “excellent facilities for penguins and sea lions”, who both have salt water pools. They acknowledged that improvements had been made by the zoo in ensuring social species were kept in compatible groups.

The inspectors said they believed the zoo was “well run” and that “the welfare of the animals it cares for [was] at the heart of each decision made by the operators”. They found the zookeepers to be experienced, knowledgeable and dedicated to the animals.

The zoo told The Journal that it has a strong record when it comes to licensing inspections. 

“The overwhelming majority of each inspection is hugely positive, and Dublin Zoo is routinely acknowledged and heralded both nationally and internationally for our independently audited first-class animal welfare and care programmes,” a spokesperson said.

The inspection was completed just weeks before Senator Annie Hoey read out claims by a whistleblower of mistreatment of animals in the Seanad in July 2022.

A subsequent investigation of these claims by the NPWS inspectorate found that 19 of the 23 claims were unfounded or not supported by evidence, while three others were founded but had been resolved.

Only one of the claims, that a red panda facility had not been developed in line with European best practice guidelines, was found to be true. However, the investigation found the management’s belief that this was not a concern was “justifiable and consistent with the other 28% of zoos that house red pandas in a similar manner within the European and North America zoo red panda holder population”.

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