Dublin Zoo returns to profit as operator’s gate income doubles to €14.16m

Zoological Society of Ireland recorded a surplus of €3.57m last year as overall income totalled €20.35m

Dublin Zoo last year enjoyed record numbers and returned to profit as gate income at the entity that operates the zoo and Fota Wildlife Park in Cork almost doubled to €14.16 million.

The surge in income and Government Covid-19 supports resulted in the Zoological Society of Ireland (ZSI) recording a surplus of €3.57 million for 2021 compared with a 2020 loss of €564,000, a positive swing of €4.14 million.

In a note with the accounts, the directors said the not-for-profit group expected to also generate a surplus in 2022.

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The €3.57 million surplus last year represents quite a turnaround in the finances of the ZSI as Dublin Zoo had warned in late 2020 that it could run out of cash by the spring of 2021 due to the pandemic impact.

According to ZSI directors, the 2021 surplus has allowed the board to reinstate the emergency reserve fund with €2.5 million set aside “to help protect against any future pandemic outbreaks, the threat of zoonotic disease or any other emergency that might impact on the ongoing finances of the group”.

The ZSI’s annual report showed gate receipt income last year increased by 87 per cent from €7.5 million to €14.16 million.

The society’s overall income totalled €20.35 million last year, made up of operating income of €19.99 million and fundraising income of €355,000.

The fundraising income across 2021 and 2020 came to €2.59 million and arose from Dublin Zoo developing a digital fundraising initiative called Save Dublin Zoo.

The ZSI recorded a surplus of €1.44 million before Covid-related income supports of €2.12 million were taken into account, resulting in the surplus of €3.57 million.

In the 2021 annual report of the ZSI, president Anne Keenan said last year Dublin Zoo enjoyed record attendances of 972,224 for the eight months that the zoo was open after Covid-19 restrictions shut it for the first four months of the year.

Visitor numbers to the zoo were double the 497,483 visitors for 2020, but down 300,378 on the 12 months of 2019, as the attraction continued to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

The profit also takes into account non-cash depreciation charges of €2.76 million.

Numbers employed increased from 124 to 135 and staff costs increased from €5.22 million to €6 million.

At the end of December last, the society’s funds totalled €34.46 million.

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times