Dublin Zoo, established in 1830 when the Lord Lieutenant allowed the Zoological Society use of a part of Phoenix Park, currently covers over 28 hectares (69 acres) featuring a historic and a new section.
Two large lakes, occupying around 15% of the zoo grounds, dominate the view. Plants, trees, and boulders, carefully selected to prevent erosion, provide cover and protection to water animals and primates on the islands.
Some structures such as the Watchtower Elephant House have been demolished, other buildings like the Monkey House are replaced, and some 19th-century buildings are preserved, refurbished, and can still be seen.
Highlights historic zoo
- Entrance lodge 1833
You will find the now unoccupied thatch-roofed cottage to the right of the current entrance.
Architect: William Deane Butler
- Zoological Society House 1868-9
A large building with arched windows, easily overlooked.
Architect: John McCurdy
- Reptile House 1876
- Haughton Memorial House 1898
Identified by its large veranda. Samuel Haughton was the secretary of the Society. It was here that kangaroos and birds were kept downstairs and members spent time in the tea-room on the first floor.
Design: L.A. McDonnell
- Roberts Lion House 1898
A red brick building named after the president of the Society at the time, nowadays home to birds and bats. When the bats moved in, the Nesbit Bat House has been demolished. Roberts House has great porches, a free-flight aviary and a top-lit interior with Victorian pieces of ironwork.
Design: L.A. McDonnell
10-year master plan: themed areas
In 1994 a plan presented by the Zoological Society of Ireland and the Office of Public Works generates €19 million for renovation. Since 1996, new life has been injected into the zoo. During 1997, the 32 acres of land surrounding the largest lake have been added, and the site has been restructured little by little into themed areas according to the master plan, developed together with Jones and Jones, Seattle.
- 1996 World of Primates
Several artificial islands of 15 to 30 square meters are connected by wooden bridges to sleeping quarters on the lake shore. Large viewing windows offer visitors an intimate glimpse into these bedrooms. Parts of the islands are enclosed by hot wire to stimulate the growth of vegetation and natural looks.
- Title towers and information panels for the zoo
"The emphasis is on humor and durability. For the World of Primates, the interactives include an orang-utan bench, depicting the animal with a tape measure showing its 2m-plus arm span for visitors to compare and contrast."
Design: Met Studio
- 1997-1999 Entrance pavilion
The new 463m2 lakeside entrance pavilion with keen glazing borrows its looks of Mies de la Rohe. A 2.6-meter high over-sailing roof, supported by 10 steel columns, protects visitors against rain.
Architect: STW Architecten
- 1998 World of Cats
Big cats are catered with pools and shade, while thick glass panels give visitors nose-to-nose access to them. The jaguar enclosure lacks a roof but has got an overhang and hot wire instead. The rocky snow leopard enclosure mimics the native environment.
- 2001 African plains
Covering 14 hectares this African area has been set up as an open zoo where animals can roam more freely. From the viewing areas visitors can get a close-up view of giraffes, zebras, etc.
- 2007 Asian Rainforest / Kaziranga Forest Trail
A visitor path meanders along banks of mud on the bed of a river, all made of concrete. Elephants can make a great appearance at a waterfall’s edge. Sight lines are carefully directed using rocks, curves, and high bamboo to block out views of buildings. Framing. Soft natural material is used for all indoor and outdoor surfaces to prevent zoogenic foot disease.
Architect: Jones en Jones
- 2009 African savannah
The habitat has been modeled on a savannah using thick sand layers, sandstone boulders, and grasses from Australia and New Zealand. From a 4-meter elevated visitor trail, the area has got the look and the feel of open spaces and distant views.
Architect: Jones en Jones
The Zoological Gardens Dublin, some 3,5 acres of land and 4 acres of water within Phoenix Park, is opened on September 1, 1831, by the then Royal Zoological Society of Ireland, which has been established the previous year. Like other zoos of this time, Dublin Zoo starts with the intention to show as many different animal species as possible. The first mammals and birds are donated by the London Zoo. By now, Phoenix Park, which is planned by Decimus Burton, architect to London Zoo, is one of the largest walled deer parks in Europe. Over the past decades, the zoo gradually shifted from cages through enclosures toward natural habitats, and to immersing the visitors in the same landscaped surroundings: landscape immersion.
Visit May 2009
When you enter first thing you see is a lake. Both lakes in this zoo are a refuge for wildfowl. Though we saw far more rain than animals, the facilities and grounds of the historic zoo look well-maintained. Visual hints to nature in South American House, always great eye candy. Meerkats exhibit in Meerkat restaurant. At the City Farm, the public is taught about Irish farming.
The new part of the zoo is as large as the historic zoo and still in the works. Animal names on the information panels are displayed in English, Irish Gaelic and Latin. A row of low white enclosures (gray wolves) seemingly built in 1930s style, could have been the first extension, in our humble opinion. Impressions of elephant footprints and plants on the Kaziranga Forest Trail. The enclosures in the African section are nice looking rectangular boxes with green tops, like helmets. Enclosure entrances borrow heavily from African-style rondavels.
Zoo maps Dublin
- September 1, 1831
- Species: 100
- Animals: 400
- 69 acres
- ~1 million a year
- 4th oldest zoo in the world
- 19th century zoo
- Architect involved
- Listed structures