What Makes Dublin Zoo Special? We Interview Gerry Creighton To Find Out

Family Friendly HQ interviewed the fantastic Gerry Creighton, Dublin Zoo’s Operations Manager about what makes Dublin Zoo special.

The staff in Dublin Zoo are what makes it magic.

Family Friendly HQ interviewed the fantastic Gerry Creighton, Dublin Zoo’s Operations Manager, and we have to agree. The staff really are something special.

He feels ‘The Zoo’ series is important for viewers.

“It’s a really honest account of zoo life. We say it as it is. We show everything as it is. The true way the zoo works. It really shows the love and the care we have for the animals. No stone is left unturned when it comes to animal welfare.”

The number of annual visitors to Dublin Zoo has exceeded 1 million for the eighth year in a row. Figures from last year show that 1,230,145 people visited the Phoenix Park attraction over the course of 2018.

The zoo had over 100 new arrivals in 2018, including an Asian elephant calf and three scimitar-horned oryx calves - a species that is classified as extinct in the wild. Just last week Dublin Zoo announced the births of three sea lion pups.

The director of the zoo, Leo Oosterweghel, said the numbers are a testament to the staff. 

Gerry has been working at the zoo for 35 years, his father was a zookeeper and also his brother. His upbeat personality and positivity are infectious. The zoo and the animals are quite literally a second family to him. Just giving viewers a glimpse of how the animals are treated in this magical place. 

“It’s very important to us that the comfort and the care here is exemplary. We have a modern vital progressive staff that are educated and resourced,” he said.

Dublin zoo
Dublin zoo

Last August, the zoo opened it's €3m Discovery and Learning Centre which provides education programmes in biodiversity, wildlife conservation and zoology for schools and colleges across the country. The Zoo does a huge amount of conservation projects not only in Dublin Zoo but also in the wild. 

As well as participating in a very successful international elephant breeding programme, Dublin Zoo also supports a conservation programme in the Kaziranga National Park in India.

“Nowadays when we do habitats here we go back to the wild. There’s no glass or bars or concrete anymore. When we designed our elephant habitat we looked at the Kaziranga National Park in India. Their whole biological requirements are taken care of,” Gerry told us.

Asian elephants are an endangered species and it is estimated that the population has declined by over 50% in the past 70 years, with numbers in the wild ranging from 30,000 to 60,000. The largest population of these wild elephants are found in India.

We asked Gerry why he feels it’s important for children to learn more about the zoo and the animals.

“What we need to do in a modern zoo is to show children elephants, lions and tigers behaving how they would behave in the wild.  Animals all over the world are being pushed into these pockets and these pockets are zoos. There is no wild anymore.” he answered. 

“It’s a human-dominated landscape. Without good zoos like what Dublin Zoo is passionate about these animals have no future. “

‘The Zoo’ has just made its highly anticipated return to our screens. The show is in its ninth season. We see Gerry embark on the trip of a lifetime to the Kaziranga National Park to see first-hand how the conservation work supported by Dublin Zoo is helping Asian elephants in the wild. 

The National Park is home to almost 2,000 elephants in an area covering almost 400 square kilometres.

Teaching the next generation about animals and how they should be treated and how animals and our planet should be treated is something Gerry is extremely passionate about. He feels it’s mostly about education and we here at Family Friendly HQ couldn’t agree more.

“It’s about educating the future generation. Our education programme here is huge, with 70 to 80 thousand children passing through it each year,” he said.

“It’s a way for children to understand the conservation message.”.

When asked his favourite part of the job, Gerry described how it was more of a vocation than a job to him.

“I’ve been 35 years here and there is not one single day I don’t look forward to coming in. Because of the versatility, every day is different. As the Operations Manager, I get to see all the animals every single day,” he said.

“I was in at 5:30 am and I watched the sunrise, I could hear the wolves howling. For me, it’s a wonderland” 

Tune in on Sundays, at 6.30 pm on RTÉ One.

Laura Doyle

Mum of four, Gentle parent living on coffee and trying always to stay positive and motivate in the midst of the madness.

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