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Survival threat Visitors to Dublin Zoo fell by more than half during pandemic


Dublin Zoo announced the birth of a southern white rhinoceros calf earlier this year. Photo: Patrick Bolger

Dublin Zoo announced the birth of a southern white rhinoceros calf earlier this year. Photo: Patrick Bolger

© Patrick Bolger

Dublin Zoo announced the birth of a southern white rhinoceros calf earlier this year. Photo: Patrick Bolger

Visitor numbers to Dublin Zoo fell by more than half this year as the Covid-19 pandemic threatened its survival.

New figures provided by Dublin Zoo show that footfall stood at 496,835 by December 18, compared to more than 1.2 million for all of last year.

It is just one of the revenue streams at the popular tourist attraction which were hit by Covid-19 this year. However, for the animals, their daily routines continued as normal despite the pandemic.

Ciaran McMahon, Dublin Zoo team leader, said: “The animals of course noticed that it was quieter and there were less people around, but our keeper staff are some of the best in the world, and the routines they have created for the animals keep them well stimulated, even without visitors.

“While our daily lives as a society may have changed drastically during Covid-19, the closure of Dublin Zoo and subsequent lack of visitors during two lockdowns did not significantly impact the animals as their routines remained the same, thanks to the hard work of the world-class animal care team.”

Meanwhile, the loss of vital funds from ticket sales, coupled with the high monthly costs of running the facility, led to an uncertain future for Dublin Zoo.

However, a fund-raising campaign was launched in November and that has proved to be very successful.

Dr Christoph Schwitzer, director of the zoo, said that over €2.7m has been raised to date thanks to the generosity of the public, who responded overwhelmingly to the Save Dublin Zoo campaign.

He said the Irish public’s donations and fundraisers are helping to keep the zoo open.

“The monthly cost of providing this care is €500,000, so while the campaign has been a fantastic success to date, our fundraising efforts are ongoing.”

Earlier this month, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar announced €3m in Government funding for Dublin Zoo and Fota Wildlife Park.

Dr Schwitzer said that the financial support would allow the zoo to re-commence work on some essential capital projects, including the construction of “world-class habitats for some of our most endangered species”.

He said the zoo would love the opportunity to welcome back visitors from Ireland and beyond.

“However, as we have done from the very beginning, we will continue to adhere to Government and public health and safety guidelines.”

Emma Kiernan, head of marketing at the zoo, said it was hopeful that its Wild Lights exhibition will return at the end of next year, “but like many other businesses, all events in 2021 at Dublin Zoo are uncertain”.

She advised people to keep an eye on its social media updates and website.

There were 37 new animals born at the zoo this year, most notably a Goeldi’s monkey, a southern white rhinoceros and a siamang gibbon.

“So many of the animals here are threatened in the wild, so it’s always an absolute joy to see a newborn at Dublin Zoo,” Sandra Molloy, registrar and research and conservation coordinator, told the Irish Independent.

The Goeldi’s monkey baby was born on November 21, making it the zoo’s newest arrival.

As the baby is just over a month old and still very close to its mother, the gender hasn’t been determined just yet. The zoo coordinates a Goeldi’s monkey European breeding programme.

Also of note was the hatching of two Humboldt penguin chicks, with one born in March and the other born in April.

Online Editors