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All aboard! Belfast Zoo celebrates ‘elephant angel’ story in local cinemas with free shuttle bus

25 Jun 2018
Lord Mayor Deirdre Hargey is encouraging families and visitors to the city to get on board a free shuttle bus to Belfast Zoo over the next two weekends (Saturday 30 June – Sunday 1 July) and (Saturday 7 July – Sunday 8 July).

New movie ‘Zoo’ opens this Friday (29 June) in local cinemas was inspired by Belfast Zoo’s real-life ‘elephant angel’ Denise Weston Austin. 

The free buses are to make it easier for film fans to visit Belfast Zoo. The Cool FM Breakfast show will also be broadcasting a special programme tomorrow (Tuesday 26 June) about Belfast Zoo ahead of the movie opening. 

During WWII and the Belfast Blitz, Denise Weston Austin protected a baby elephant named Sheila by taking it to her Whitewell Road home at night to comfort it during the bombing. However, the home visits were discovered after Sheila chased a dog into a neighbour’s garden damaging a fence in the process. After this, the authorities insisted Sheila remain in the Zoo.

“We hope the film and the inspiring story on which it is based will encourage families to come and see the real-life elephants and other animals cared for at Belfast Zoo,” said Councillor Hargey. She recently joined the movie’s lead actors, Penelope Wilton and Art Parkinson, during a special visit to Belfast Zoo to see the elephants ahead of the film’s opening in Belfast.

“Belfast Zoo attracts visitors from near and far, many of whom travel by car, but we are hoping to make it a little easier to travel up to the Zoo from the Visit Belfast Welcome Centre right to the Zoo’s front door – on our free shuttle bus.

“Besides the pleasure of learning about the animals, the educational and conservation work that goes on at the Zoo, we have a host of other activities planned for this weekend and next.

“On Saturday 30 June, Belfast Zoo will be holding its first ever sensory day for visitors on the autism spectrum or with other sensory requirements. The day will be filled with fun for all the family with animal feeding times, keeper talks, touch tables, sensory play, quiet areas, children’s theatre shows and much more.

“You can find out about our elephant angel, there will be an on-site competition trail, and a picnic area,” added the Lord Mayor.
The free shuttle bus will run between 12noon and 3pm from Visit Belfast Welcome Centre directly to Belfast Zoo during this weekend (Saturday 30 June – Sunday 1 July) and next weekend (Saturday 7 July – Sunday 8 July). 

Buses will leave Visit Belfast at 12noon, 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm with return buses available on the half-hour from Belfast Zoo carpark.

More information is available on our website