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Bonanza for the Zoo as more opt for staycations

THE popularity of the staycation with more families holidaying at home has seen record numbers visiting Dublin Zoo.

The final footfall figure for 2012 reached all-time high of 1,029,41 last year -- and the overwhelming majority of visitors were Irish.

Leo Oosterweghel, director of Dublin Zoo said that: "People who stay at home still want to do interesting and wholesome things with the children.

"We had a two and a half per cent increase in visitors last year compared to 2011," said Mr Oosterweghel.



Budgets

More and more Irish families are choosing to holiday at home due to the recession and it's impact on household budgets in recent years.

Mr Oosterweghel believed that the numbers holidaying at home has contributed to the huge number of visitors to the zoo.

"It's a safe and comfortable environment, and families can spend the entire day at the zoo with so much to see and learn," he said.

Meanwhile, he revealed that there are new initiatives on the way to keep the momentum going this year.

A pair of Okapi, "forest giraffes" from Central Africa will be arriving to the zoo during the summer months, he told the Herald.

"In addition, we will be increasing the volume on our summer camps. Demand was so big last year that they sold out.

"The children do all sorts of things during the summer camps, including studying the animals and playing games which are driven by our teaching team."

Meanwhile, there are plans to further grow the events business at the zoo, which includes weddings and birthday parties.

In fact, the New Year has brought a new wave of requests about weddings at the famous venue.

Between Wednesday and Thursday alone this week, the Zoo received five separate requests for information on getting married there, Mr Oosterweghel said. The historic Haughton House, is the venue for the weddings.

"Every euro we make goes back into the zoo, because we are not for profit," he explained.

Last year was an extremely busy year for the zoo and saw the opening of the Asian Forest, and welcomed many new arrivals including a rare Eastern bongo calf, a tapir calf, two red panda cubs, two meerkat pups, two snowy owls and a sea lion pup, as well as many new births at the Family Farm.

Among the new arrivals were two young Asian lionesses and a bull elephant, Upali, to the collection of animals.

As well, as a huge number of Irish visitors, it even had a visit from international superstar singer and actress Jennifer Lopez who visited with her family in October.

Mr Oosterweghel explained: "Over the past two decades Dublin Zoo has transformed into a world-class centre of learning about wildlife and conservation.

"It is also an integral part of more and more European breeding programmes for endangered species."

fdillon@herald.ie