Dot writes: we’ve just taken out a family membership of Dublin Zoo. Or, as it turns out, I’ve taken out a family membership of Dublin Zoo, because when I bought the membership they used a little camera to take my picture and put it on the card and none of the rest of the family will be able to get in without me, which is rather a nuisance. But never mind; even with that constraint I think the membership will easily pay for itself over the year, especially as it also gives free entry to Fota Wildlife Park and to the zoos in Chester, Edinburgh and Paignton in the UK. I love having memberships of things because it takes the pressure off each individual visit. You don’t have that irritable sense of having to get your money’s worth: if you feel like coming in for half an hour and spending it all in the reptile house, fine.
Dublin Zoo is an old zoo and a traditional one in some ways. The animals certainly aren’t cramped into old-fashioned cages: they have lots of space and good diets, and thought is given to encouraging their natural behaviours (which is probably why, after visiting at least four times, I’ve still never seen the lions: their natural behaviour seems to be to retreat to a quiet spot in the back of their leafy enclosure and go to sleep). On the other hand it has a lot of primates, including orangutans and gorillas, and I can’t help but feel uncomfortable seeing them on view. They are just a bit too human. However, this is probably weak sentimentalism: they’re incredibly endangered in the wild, and they have private areas in their enclosures if they feel like hiding away. The gorillas have had two babies this year, which suggests they are in a good mood at least some of the time. And my discomfort is not great enough to quench the pleasure and fascination of seeing them.
My very favourite thing at the zoo, however, is the giraffes. I love the way their markings are at once so irregular and so beautifully fitted together. I love their odd mixture of grace and awkwardness. And I also love their sheds, which have extremely tall narrow doors. The sheds always make me laugh.
I’m not sure what the children like best. (They’re in bed, or I’d ask.) Of the animals, probably the sealions, but it would be a toss-up between them and the playground with the sand and the buckets on pulleys. I expect their interest in the zoo will grow and change as we go to it repeatedly over the year, and I’m looking forward to that.