Profits plummet at Dublin Zoo as pope’s visit hits visitor numbers

Extreme weather also blamed for decline in custom

The pope's visit and extreme weather last year contributed to profits tumbling at the company that operates Dublin Zoo.

New accounts for the Zoological Society of Ireland, which operates both Dublin Zoo and Fota Wildlife Park, show that profits last year fell by 71 per cent from €2.6 million to €765,000.

The sharp drop came as visitor numbers at Dublin Zoo fell by more than 8 per cent to 1,019,910. Over the 12 months, 88,818 fewer people passed through the zoo gates.

Directors noted that it was the eighth year in a row where visitor numbers at Dublin Zoo had topped one million. In the same period, visitor numbers at Fota Wildlife Park fell from 455,559 to 424,889.


The decline in visitor numbers at the two locations contributed revenue for the the Zoological Society dropping by 3 per cent from €21.43 million to €20.75 million.

Dublin Zoo was forced to shut its doors for three days during August 2018 to facilitate the visit of Pope Francis. This came at the end of one of the State's hottest summers, although the Beast from the East storm had required the venue to close earlier in the year.

‘Pulled the rug’

In an interview last December, Dublin Zoo director Leo Oosterweghel said the pope's visit "pulled the rug" from underneath the attraction in terms of visitor numbers. The visit coincided with what would usually be Dublin Zoo's busiest week of the year, he added.

The Zoological Society also saw increased staff costs last year, with the total bill rising from from €6.68 million to €7.19 million as numbers employed edged up to 167 form 162. A 13-strong management team shared €1 million in pay.

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

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times