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Speech at the Official Opening of the Ibis Cliff Exhibit, Dublin Zoo


It is a great pleasure to be back at Dublin Zoo to officially open this wonderful Ibis Cliff exhibit.  Today represents the start of a project that enables this species to get a new lease of life in a habitat that resembles its own.  At the outset, I would like to convey my warmest thanks to:  

Leo, Ethel and the entire Dublin Zoo team whose enthusiasm and commitment to deadlines have made this project a reality;

the architectural team from the Office of Public Works, with whose work here and elsewhere I am very familiar and which has been done to the highest standards;

Rock Effects who have also done great work; and

the Council for the Zoological Society of Ireland who have given tremendous support to this project. 

I think that this is a very important development for the Zoo itself.  It involved experts from all over the world and I think that it highlights Dublin Zoos dedication to using world best practice to ensure the well-being of the animals here.

I know from experience that Dublin Zoo plays a vital role in the international zoo community.  This new exhibit represents another very important step in your ongoing work to preserve endangered species.  I certainly wish you every success with that work.  The Ibis certainly is a species whose numbers have seriously declined because of urbanisation, hunting and chemicals.  So it is very encouraging to see you start a new home for twelve Ibis here in Dublin from Twycross Zoo in England.  And it is also very encouraging to have this practical example of the excellent co-operation of the zoo network who are committed to the conservation of this and other species.  So I would like to take this opportunity to thank the zoo community for that great work.  It will bring positive and lasting benefits to wildlife who are assured of a more secure future due to the support and co-operation of zoos worldwide.  And of course, we in the public who admire and support the work of the zoo also benefit from wonderful new developments like this.  

I believe that the work of the zoo community worldwide is vital to the survival of many species.  In fact, I was really amazed to learn from the briefing that Ethel has sent me, that the worldwide zoo population of this Ibis is many times greater than the numbers that remain in the wild.   We can only hope that top class research and breeding will lead to a situation where these rare species can inhabit the wild again. 

As I stated at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, the pressures facing the global environment are so great that we must develop new partnerships and find renewed political will to conserve the great diversity and beauty of our world.  So it is great to come back to Dublin Zoo so soon after that discussion to see practical steps being taken and new partnerships taking shape that offer real hope for the future for many species.  

This year the Zoo will welcome 650,000 visitors.  The numbers speak volumes for the popularity of the zoo among young and old.  At a time when society is changing so fast, it is wonderful to know that the Zoo is still a firm favourite with all the family. 

The opening of this wonderful new experience The Ibis Cliff will be a great addition to all of the other highlights here in the Zoo.  Education and raising awareness of wildlife and natural habitats is also central to your work here.  And I know that education in a fun environment where learning is a pleasure has proven to be a great success.  We all know that animals have a very positive effect on people.  In many respects, the Zoo is a living classroom.  And the people who come here contribute to the animals' welfare because their support goes a long way in ensuring the continued care and well-being of all the animals. 

I know that there is an exciting and ambitious plan in place between now and 2006, which will ensure that Dublin Zoo continues to invest in the animals and to make it an even better place to visit.  Without further ado, I would like to wish Leo, Ethel and all the team here the very best of success.  It gives me great pleasure to declare the Ibis Cliff officially open. 

Thank you.