Pope and Beast from the East send profits tumbling at Dublin Zoo and Fota company

The Pope’s visit and extreme weather last year contributed to profits tumbling at the company that operates Dublin Zoo and Fota Wildlife Park.

Pope and Beast from the East send profits tumbling at Dublin Zoo and Fota company

The Pope’s visit and extreme weather last year contributed to profits tumbling at the company that operates Dublin Zoo and Fota Wildlife Park.

New accounts for the Zoological Society of Ireland show that profits last year decreased by 71% from €2.6m to €765,000.

The sharp drop in profits comes against the background of visitor numbers decreasing at Dublin Zoo by 88,818 last year from 1,108,728 to 1,019,910.

The directors state that 2018 was the eighth year in a row that visitor numbers topped the one million mark at Dublin Zoo.

Visitor numbers at Fota Wildlife Park decreased from 455,559 to 424,889.

The drop in visitor numbers contributed to revenues for the Zoological Society declining by 3% from €21.43m to €20.75m.

Dublin Zoo was forced to shut its doors for three days in August 2018 during the visit of Pope Francis.

The forced closure followed the zoo having to contend with the Beast from the East and one of the hottest summers on record here.

In an interview last December, Director of Dublin Zoo, Leo Oosterweghel claimed the pontiff visit “pulled the rug” from beneath them in terms of visitor numbers.

He stated: “First there was the extraordinary winter, it was hard to recover. Then we had this incredibly hot summer.”

Mr Oosterweghel added: “Then his holiness arrived the last week of August - we were closed for that whole period.”

He said that is usually the zoo’s biggest week of the year.

The profits at the Zoological Society were last year hit by increased staff costs from €6.68m to €7.19m as numbers employed increased from 162 to 167.

Thirteen key management shared €1m in pay.

The profits were also hit by the Zoological Society’s non-cash depreciation costs increasing by €477,000 from €2.54m to €3m.

A spokesman for Dublin Zoo stated on Friday: “2018 was another great year for Dublin Zoo.”

He stated: "Despite some erratic weather conditions, Dublin Zoo was once again one of Ireland’s most popular family friendly attractions for 2018.

The spokesman stated that the reduction in 2018 profits “was not entirely caused by unexpected closures”.

He said: “The reduction in profit can be attributed to a drop in income and an increase in operating costs including wages and depreciation.

The spokesman stated that the total footfall for the zoo was 1.23m when the 210,235 visitors to the Wild Lights visitation are taken into account.

Total funds at the end of last year at the Zoological Society amounted to €29.9m.

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