Favourite elephants at the Zoological Gardens Dublin
Published on 3rd October 2014
The Dublin Zoological Garden was established by the Dublin Zoological Society, under the patronage of the Lord Lieutenant, and opened to the public on 1st September 1831. The site was in the Phoenix Park, near the Vice Regal Lodge, the Lord Lieutenant’s residence, now Áras an Uachtaráin, the residence of the President of Ireland. It was situated to the north of the smaller of two lakes, it later expanded to the south of the lake, and in the 20th century it was extended to take in the area around the larger lake also.
The Zoological Garden was entered by an ornate gate house and members of the public paid sixpence to enter. In the announcement for its opening in The Freeman's Journal on 31st August 1831, visitors were asked to leave their walking sticks and umbrellas at the gate, and to keep children from approaching too close to the animals.
Many of the original animals were sent as gifts from the Zoological Society of London. In November 1836 The Freeman’s Journal reported that the Marquis of Waterford presented several valuable animals to the Zoo which he had imported from Africa and America.
As exotic animals were expensive to purchase, some were hired for a limited time. In this way the first elephant to appear in the Zoo was hired and exhibited for a limited period in 1835. It was a 10 year old male Indian elephant, later engraved for an article in The Dublin Penny Journal on 29 August 1835. The following year a female elephant was given as a gift from London Zoo, she remained in Dublin until her death in 1842.
Elephants have continued to be among the most beloved animals in the Zoo. In the 1950s taking a ride on the back of Sarah the elephant was the highlight of any visit to the Zoo. Sarah and her keeper, Jimmy Kenny, were household names in Dublin.
The baby elephant Komali arrived from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1950, and she was an instant hit with children. They were allowed to feed her with carrots, and sometimes to ride on her back for photographs, but she was too young to carry a group of children. These photographs from the early 1950s are from the Aloysius Kane Photographic Collection.
To read more about the history of Dublin Zoo and the animals who lived there see a range of books in the libraries: Elephant books