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10th Sep 2020

Bearman of Buncrana says Wild Ireland is complete opposite to famous Joe Exotic zoo

Sarah Finnan

Wild Ireland

Home to a number of furry friends, Wild Ireland counts wolves, lynx and wild boar amongst its residents. Along with three brown bears – the first bears to return to Ireland in over 2,000 years.

A 23-acre wildlife sanctuary in Donegal, Wild Ireland has quickly become one of the country’s most popular attractions. Run by local man Killian McLaughlin – also known as The Bearman of Buncrana – the park is home to several bears, wolves, lynx, wild boar and even a golden eagle.

The subject of a new RTÉ documentary, the four-part series follows McLaughlin as he works with international charities to rescue and rehabilitate animals from dangerous places. A truly unique attraction for the Wild Atlantic Way, the park is the guts of over six years’ work.

However, with animal welfare having been brought the fore by the likes of the popular Netflix docuseries Tiger King, the Donegal man wants to assure the public that Wild Ireland is the exact opposite of Joe Exotic’s infamous zoo.

Speaking to the Irish Sunhe said:

‘There’s an ethical way of doing things. The animals in Wild Ireland came from places like the zoo Joe Exotic ran. The place our bears came from fed them bread and buns. They had never stepped on grass before coming here, they were actually frightened of the outdoors.

‘We don’t breed here and we feed the animals fresh food. We rescue animals. Joe Exotic, if he’s done anything positive it’s that he’s shone a light on these practices.’

Adding that people often don’t realise why visiting wildlife parks is fuelling the fire, McLaughlin mused that ‘Joe Exotic showed there is a problem’.

‘A lot of people go on holidays and they go to the Tiger Temple in Thailand or to elephant baths. Those animals are not being kept in their natural environment. I’d encourage anyone to do some research before they visit any attractions where there are animals.’

Episode two of Return of the Wild: The Bearman of Buncrana airs on RTÉ One tonight at 8:30pm.

Header image via Instagram/Visit Wild Ireland

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