Aquarium inhabitants boosted by return of visitors, director says

Sea Life Bray Aquarium in Wicklow has been shut for much of the past year but finally returned last week as the country continues to reopen.
Aquarium inhabitants boosted by return of visitors, director says

By James Ward, PA

Animals at an aquarium who have had to acclimatise to having no visitors during the pandemic are delighted to see its doors reopen, its director has said.

Like most businesses, Sea Life Bray Aquarium in Wicklow has been shut for much of the past year but finally returned last week as the country continues to reopen.

Director Pat O Suilleabhain said the reopening has given residents at the aquarium something to look forward to.

Pat O Suilleabhain
Pat O Suilleabhain said it is great to welcome visitors back. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

“It’s great to get back open, it’s great to start welcoming visitors back. Even the animals appreciate it,” he said.

“They definitely do and we see it on a daily basis, in the interactions they are having with the staff.

“We’ve done a bit of acclimatising work over the last couple of weeks, to make sure they’re happy and they’re comfortable with larger numbers.

“We’ve been turning the sound system back on. We’ve been making sure that we’re doing more physical engagements with the animals.”

Mr O Suilleabhain said it was clear that the drop-off in visitors due to the pandemic had impacted on the creatures at the aquarium.

“We’re seeing a slight change in their behaviour. They were very happy, even during closure” he said.

Sea Life Bray
A puffer fish at the Sea Life Aquarium in Bray. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

“But definitely their behaviour does change slightly, they do come to the glass a little bit more often. It’s nice to see those old patterns come back into play.”

Demand has been high ever since Sea Life reopened its doors and has even become a surprise hit for couples going on dates, trying something different with more traditional options still closed.

Mr O Suilleabhain said: “The demand has been very strong, particularly at the weekends. We reopened on Saturday the 15th, and for the entire weekend we were booked out. So, that’s great news.

“Of course, with the Covid guidelines we have restricted capacity.

“Obviously we need to make sure that our visitors can maintain social distancing.

Sea Life Bray
Sharks at the Sea Life Aquarium. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

“That said, we’ve had visitors from the time we open until the time we close.”

He added: “It’s such a relief after being closed for such a long time, to be able to welcome visitors back. And also to be able to generate a bit of revenue.

“Obviously, we’ve been running the aquarium, spending loads of money and not getting the money in.

“That said, I have to acknowledge the supports that are available from the Government, without which we would have been in a very, very bad way.”

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