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Crowds gather at Dublin Zoo for reopening

Its gates were shut to the public around 11 weeks ago.

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Dublin Zoo has reopened to limited numbers (Dublin Zoo/PA)

Dublin Zoo has reopened to limited numbers (Dublin Zoo/PA)

Dublin Zoo has reopened to limited numbers (Dublin Zoo/PA)

Crowds of people have gathered at Dublin Zoo as it reopened to limited numbers.

A maximum of 500 people are permitted at any one time and strict social distancing measures will ensure the safety of visitors and staff, the director of the animal enclosure said.

Excited groups of family and friends made their way inside the zoo for its official reopening after its gates were shut to the public around 11 weeks ago.

Georgina Kendrick, Jackie Cunningham and children George and Teddy Kendrick were among the first in line.

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The first few arrivals at Dublin Zoo (Niall Carson/PA)

The first few arrivals at Dublin Zoo (Niall Carson/PA)

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The first few arrivals at Dublin Zoo (Niall Carson/PA)

Ms Kendrick, who has an annual pass, usually visits the zoo once a month with her children.

She said: “We’ve really missed it during the lockdown – the kids have missed it and have been asking for it all the time, so we got really excited when we heard it has reopened.

“We are lucky we live in Clontarf so we are beside the park, but this is something a bit different.

“We have brought our wipes and have hand sanitiser and we will all keep our distance and it’s open air and I also have a potty for George.”

Nicola and Stephanie Mark were also among the first groups of people to visit the zoo.

Stephanie said: “We haven’t been out in so long and we have the annual pass.

“It’s been affecting Sean because he loves school and he’s not sleeping at night because he’s not getting to go to school. We can’t go anywhere and are stuck at home.

“It’s open air and we have briefed the children that we are not allowed to get in anyone’s personal space and we have sanitiser.

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People arriving at the zoo (Niall Carson/PA)

People arriving at the zoo (Niall Carson/PA)

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People arriving at the zoo (Niall Carson/PA)

“Sean is terrified of getting it and it took him a while to convince him to leave the house.”

Evan Beagan said he has no issues buying tickets for the zoo.

He said: “We are a big fan of animals and have been missing the zoo so we decided to come back and be one of the first ones here. There was no issue getting tickets – we got them as soon as they went on sale.

“If we stick to the (Covid-19 health) guidelines, we will be OK.”

The zoo has implemented a one-way system and visits are divided into two sessions per day, while the zoo will have less than 10% of its usual capacity.

Hand sanitisers will be available and there will be signage reinforcing physical distancing, hand hygiene and etiquette for coughing and sneezing.

An enhanced cleaning regime has been implemented and all staff will be provided with and trained in the safe use of personal protective equipment.

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Leah Hehir, centre, with her twin three-year-old daughters Riona, left, and Meabh (Niall Carson/PA)

Leah Hehir, centre, with her twin three-year-old daughters Riona, left, and Meabh (Niall Carson/PA)

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Leah Hehir, centre, with her twin three-year-old daughters Riona, left, and Meabh (Niall Carson/PA)

To ensure strict social distancing and to meet new public health guidelines, internal animal houses and enclosed habitat viewing areas, retail units and playgrounds will remain closed.

Visitors will not be able to see wolves, hippos, Waldrapp ibis, Amur tigers and red pandas.

They may view most of the animals, including the herd of Asian elephants, chimpanzees, western lowland gorillas, giraffes, rhinos, zebras, sea lions, penguins, lemurs, orangutans and lions.

PA