Record 1.5 million flocked to zoo attractions last year
Ireland's love of animals continues to grow as newly released figures show more people than ever are enjoying two major nature attractions.
Dublin Zoo and Fota Wildlife Park in Co Cork both saw visitor numbers rise in 2016. In the capital, a record 1.1 million people passed through the gates at Phoenix Park last year, while Fota saw attendance increase by 6pc to more than 465,000.
Gate receipts from the two attractions amounted to almost €12.6m - an increase of just over 6pc compared to 2015.
That contributed to a combined revenue of almost €20m, according to accounts just filed to the Companies Office by the Zoological Society of Ireland.
The society, which owns and operates both attractions, made a surplus of €2.8m during 2016, and had accumulated reserves of almost €18.4m.
The two sites recorded total revenue of €19.4m - up almost 6pc compared to 2015.
An additional €2.6m was generated by the sale of annual passes and membership fees.
Income generated by gift shops at the zoos increased by 2.4pc to €2.6m last year.
It was the sixth consecutive year that visitor numbers at Dublin Zoo have broken the million mark.
As well as being Ireland's largest family attraction, it also supports conservation and research projects.
Fota Wildlife Park encompasses 100 acres of land on Fota Island and is the second-largest visitor attraction in Ireland outside of Leinster. It is currently in the process of adding a 27-acre development that focuses on Asian animals and plants.
Between them, the attractions employed an average of 159 people last year.
A total of 26 of these worked in administration, 10 in management, 15 in shops, and 95 were full-time general staff. A further 13 general staff worked part-time.
They were paid €5.6m in 2016, while 14 "key management personnel" collected total remuneration of €920,924, according to the accounts.