A record million visitors go wild for Dublin Zoo
DUBLIN Zoo attracted over one million visitors in 2011 -- breaking the magic number for the first time in its 180-year history.
In the past 12 months, the number of visitors increased by almost 40,000, despite the effects of the recession and the drop in consumer spending.
This broke the previous record in 2010 when the total number of visitors reached an unprecedented 963,053.
Among the new attractions last year was the opening of the highly popular Gorilla Rainforest, which facilitated the unprecedented birth of two baby gorillas in 2011.
In total, the zoo welcomed 42 'new arrivals' last year, including a giraffe calf, a baby hippo and two red panda cubs.
And the keepers are expecting a number of other arrivals later this year, but said it was too early to identify what type of animals they would be.
Among the factors leading to the record-breaking levels was the success of the the popular TV documentary 'The Zoo' aired on RTE, plus increased marketing, public relations and social media activity.
Last month, Dublin Zoo launched a drive to reach one million visitors by offering a special ticket price of €2.50 to its Facebook fans.
Zoo director Leo Oosterweghel said it was now "among the best zoos in the world and is Ireland's top visitor attraction".
He stressed the record-breaking visitor numbers were even more remarkable against the backdrop of declining consumer spending, plus the fact the zoo had restricted opening times in the busy month of May during the high-profile state visits.
"Over the past two decades, Dublin Zoo has transformed into a world-class centre of learning about wildlife and conservation that immerses its visitors in a truly unforgettable experience," added Mr Oosterweghel.
"Since the early 1990s, the zoo has more than doubled in size and many of our animals have wonderful new living conditions. The zoo has become an integral part of European breeding programmes for endangered species.
"It is now positioned to provide a top-class visitor experience and a home to our wonderful animals for many years to come."
The Barrett family from Dublin's Navan Road won the accolade of being the "one millionth visitor", and were given a five-year family pass and taken on a VIP tour, where they met the keepers and got exclusive behind-the-scenes access to some of the animals.