Killian McLoughlin has always been an animal lover and it is his lifelong dream to open his own wildlife park in Donegal, bringing back animals native to Ireland. After a year-long battle for planning permission, the first phase begins in April 2018. With the hope of turning back the hands of time, creating a new lake is central to increasing the biodiversity of the area. However, his unrealistic expectations for the speed and ease of the process may end up costing a lot more time and money than originally anticipated.
During the day, Killian works as a solicitor in Buncrana with his Dubliner fiancee, Katie. On top of the pressures from building the wildlife park, they are planning on getting married and also renovating an old house. However, they have already been pushed way over budget with the park, and the increased need for visitor amenities and construction of enclosures have called for more funds. It’s essential that Killian’s big meeting with the bank proves fruitful.
Killian goes to the Natural History Museum in Dublin to meet with the curator, Nigel Monaghan, one of the leading authorities on wildlife in Ireland. Searching for inspiration on what animals he should bring to his sanctuary, he learns about several species that once existed in Ireland, such as hyenas, bears, wolves and lynx.
He also travels to the Natuurhulpcentrum in Belgium, a rescue centre for animals with awful backgrounds. He has received word that they have rescued 3 bears from eastern Europe, and could possibly have them moved to his sanctuary; the first bears in Ireland for over 2500 years. These specific bears were found in Latvia, with a drunken and dangerous owner, bred as a tourist attraction. This newfound knowledge, combined with the revelation that bears love to climb and dig, makes Killian want to double down on the quality of his enclosure.
It’s all mounting up now. The bank loan is pending, he doesn’t have enough money to pay the workers, they are falling far behind schedule and, as a solicitor, he still has many clients to keep happy. The pressure is on, and there are many sleepless nights ahead.
Passion drives Killian to create a unique wildlife park that will offer sanctuary to abused brown bears and other rescue animals, returning them to the forest habitats once more.
Moondance Productions follow Killian through the highs and lows of his journey to return the wild animals to their rightful place in the Irish landscape. Two years in the making and filmed across multiple countries and continents, this surely will be a one-off gripping tail (tale) which will have audiences at the edge of their seats.
This young lawyer will stop at nothing to make his wildlife park a reality. Never before has a project of this scale been undertaken, there is no rule book or how-to instruction manual. This character driven documentary will reveal Killian’s compelling mission to bring back Irish fauna from extinction and to transform his woodland into a world class wildlife sanctuary.
By Killian’s side throughout, is his new wife Katie, a city girl and solicitor from Dublin, who has traded the rat race for the wilds of Donegal.
This project has the potential to break them financially and emotionally but when they fall in love with some animals in dire need, their commitment to bringing them home becomes unshakable. Despite battling with big banks, red tape, paperwork and bureaucracy the couple remain committed to doing it anyway they can. Moondance has been at their side, documenting their dogged determination to make it happen.
From managing the two year build to coming up against roadblock after roadblock Moondance has captured it all making it an honest and compelling watch.
Katie and Killian will stop at nothing to realise a lifelong dream. A lawyer by day but a conservationist at heart, Killian’s ambition to build a wildlife sanctuary is on track. As construction of the lakes, islands and huge habitats begin, the enormity of the project hits home. The couple, unshaken by adversity, knuckle in using their legal minds to cut through legislation and red tape to get the animals home.
Animals start to arrive before the park is complete, having nowhere to house them, the couple bring wolves, lynx and deer home to their newly renovated house. The pressure continues to mount, the park must be complete and open before the summer season ends.
Wild Ireland finally opens at the end of autumn 2019, fifteen months behind schedule and three times over the original budget. Nevertheless, visitors flock to welcome back the native predators and learn of Ireland’s lost animals. Killian’s vision is finally realised, but there’s no time for sighs of relief.
The Irish winter bites hard and the park is hit with 6 major storms, crippling visitor numbers. With the storms taking their toll, a global health pandemic emerges, forcing the park to close its doors indefinitely.
The animals must be fed and cared for despite the global lockdown and the couple struggling with mounting costs and high emotions without an income.
The arrival of spring brings some hope. A litter of 6 Wild Boar brings delight to the world as videos of the Boarlets playing goes viral online. Wild boar last having roamed Ireland 800 years ago.
What’s more, with the park re-opening its gates, Katie gives birth to a beautiful baby boy, Rígan – but are they out of the woods yet?
Return of the Wild is a documentary series full of heart, passion, high-stakes emotions, big dreams, big predators and even bigger risks – it’s certainly not to be missed.
Series Producer & Director is Shane Brennan.
Moondance Productions for RTE.
Photo Credit: Adam Porter
LINK to Wild Ireland www.wildireland.org