Zoo visits rise by 10% to 770,000

VISITOR numbers at Dublin Zoo surged 10% to a new record of more than 770,000 last year.

The Zoological Society of Ireland, which runs the zoo and Fota Wildlife Park in Cork, saw total income rise 8% to €6.3 million, while its operating surplus went up from €604,000 to €863,000.

The zoo, a not-for-profit organisation that enjoys charitable status, made almost €5 million from admission charges and annual subscriptions, with the balance coming from income from the shops and restaurants.

Zoo commercial director Helen Murphy said the zoo achieved record results despite increased competition from other visitor attractions in the city. “The high attendance figures are confirmation of the popularity of Dublin Zoo and the dedication of the entire zoo team throughout the year,” she said.

The zoo launched a range of new programmes last year to drum up business outside the summer months, which traditionally accounted for the bulk of revenues. Themed events based around Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas boosted visitor numbers by encouraging visits at off-peak periods. Zoo director Leo Oosterweghel said it was vital to stimulate off-season traffic to help pay for the high level of year-round fixed costs.

But visitors were unhappy with the lack of adequate dining facilities. The absence of a suitable restaurant was the number one complaint faced by zoo staff, although this was expected to become less of an issue with the opening of a new 325-seat restaurant before the end of this year.

The zoo’s annual report, published yesterday, did not give a detailed breakdown of the €5 million running costs incurred during the year. The 2002 report disclosed that the zoo was forced to spend more on lawyers than on vets, with €75,000 spent on legal fees against €62,000 on veterinary expenses.

Problems faced by zoo chiefs during the year included a power failure in the bat house that required intervention by zoo staff to prevent the drop in temperature causing a disease.

Urban foxes were unwelcome visitors during the year and were responsible for killing a penguin and some geese. The zoo took steps to tighten up security as a result.

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