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'We were doing the monkey dance' - joy as Zoo reopens after lockdown

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Michelle Leonard, Amy Allen, Erin O’Toole, Thomas O’Toole and Sam Allen.

Michelle Leonard, Amy Allen, Erin O’Toole, Thomas O’Toole and Sam Allen.

Michelle Leonard, Amy Allen, Erin O’Toole, Thomas O’Toole and Sam Allen.

Dublin Zoo has opened its gates to the public again for the first time since Covid-19 lockdown, and the animals are as glad to see the visitors as the visitors are to see the animals.

With restricted visitor numbers and a one-way system, most of the animals will be accessible.

However, some animal houses as well as the shops and restaurants will stay off-limits until restrictions are lifted further.

"It has been very peaceful. The vegetation looks amazing and the animals are very comfortable and have been looked after very well," said zoo director Leo Oosterweghel.

"It's interesting that when you walk around the animals are startled because they are not used to visitors any more, so it will take a few weeks to get settled into the 'new ordinary'."

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Lisa Fetherston and Suzanna Kearney, from Clonsilla and Finglas, with their children Amy, Jack , Tom and Che

Lisa Fetherston and Suzanna Kearney, from Clonsilla and Finglas, with their children Amy, Jack , Tom and Che

Colin Keegan

Lisa Fetherston and Suzanna Kearney, from Clonsilla and Finglas, with their children Amy, Jack , Tom and Che

Mr Oosterweghel said having people in the zoo does provide a stimulus for the animals. "They like to see movement and change," he added.

"The animals react with great curiosity. When I walk around by myself in the evening they are looking at me thinking 'who is this?'

"It is a different scene for them to see people again."

A team of staff have been looking after the animals since the zoo's closure in March.

"It's a seven-days-a-week workload looking after the animals," Mr Oosterweghel said.

Confident

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Robert and Gillian Gunning with their children, Tommy (9), Julia (7) and Paul (3)

Robert and Gillian Gunning with their children, Tommy (9), Julia (7) and Paul (3)

Colin Keegan

Robert and Gillian Gunning with their children, Tommy (9), Julia (7) and Paul (3)

"It's a big site so we are confident we can adhere to the social-distancing rules very comfortably."

Head of marketing Emma Kiernan said: "We're a fully outdoor facility now. It's really a different zoo but still fantastic.

"We have a significantly reduced capacity, it is probably around 10pc. We have a morning slot and an afternoon slot with 500 tickets in each and customers book online.

"It's one-way and there are extra staff on site to ensure people are flowing, and we have additional hand-sanitising units on site as well.

"We are opening with cautious optimism and we will see how it goes.

"The health and safety of all our visitors and staff are paramount, so only when we are very comfortable that we are fully compliant with lifting of restrictions will we change things."

Outside the gate in the early morning summer sunshine the first visitors started to arrive with great anticipation.

"We're very excited and the kids are very excited. It's the first thing we have done since lockdown," said Erin O'Toole, from Tallaght, who was visiting with her son Thomas (3) and friend Michelle Leonard and her two children, Sam and Amy Allen (4).

"It was difficult to get bookings but we were lucky. "

Sam said he had missed the tigers the most and was looking forward to seeing them again.

Excited

Lavinia McClelland and her son Matthew (2), from Castleknock, were also waiting for the gates to open at 9.30am.

"We're very excited. It was the best thing ever when I heard yesterday that it was opening," said Lavinia, as Matthew did monkey and elephant impressions.

"The first thing we did was go online and book our slot so this is really like heaven for us - Matthew has been asking five times a day about going to the zoo.

"We were doing the monkey dance all the way up."

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Fiona Lelas with her children Erika (9) and Frankie (13)

Fiona Lelas with her children Erika (9) and Frankie (13)

Colin Keegan

Fiona Lelas with her children Erika (9) and Frankie (13)

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Lynda Brady from Clane with her children Nathan (9), Addison (8) and Lillyparker (6)

Lynda Brady from Clane with her children Nathan (9), Addison (8) and Lillyparker (6)

Colin Keegan

Lynda Brady from Clane with her children Nathan (9), Addison (8) and Lillyparker (6)

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Wayne and Clare Morgan with their children Noah (9), Alax (7) and Evan (4)

Wayne and Clare Morgan with their children Noah (9), Alax (7) and Evan (4)

Colin Keegan

Wayne and Clare Morgan with their children Noah (9), Alax (7) and Evan (4)