Staff at Dudley Zoological Gardens are cracking open the bubbly after a hearty increase in visitors to the 40-acre tourist attraction.
Numbers show a rise of 17 per cent on last year’s figures for the first seven months of the year – 120,000 visitors in the period of January to July, compared with 103,000 for the same period in 2012.
Chief Executive Officer Peter Suddock said:“It’s fantastic news; we’ve seen a steady year-on-year increase now since 2008 and given the current economic climate this is marvellous.”
He added:“The big rises of double figure increases have come in the past two years and are due to investment across the site, rebranding and our website activity which has gained us access to a whole new market.”
In the past decade more than £1 million has been spent across the 76-year-old organisation and a further £3.05 million is in place to fund a four-year programme (completion 2015/16) of which work is already underway. Mr Suddock added:“DZG pioneered the initial develpment of Castle Hill through its own funds – a rare situation in today’s economy, and we’re set to go from strength to strength. These are exciting times.”
• £200,000 new offices opened January 2013, the 2,650 sq ft complex includes space for Administration, Finance, Research, Visitor Services and Marketing staff, plus a conference room and archive department
• Penguin Bay – a £40,000 walkthrough experience with glass viewing panels at poolside, plus a beach opened May 2012 offering visitors a chance to get close to the site's 70-strong group – the UK's largest colony of parent-reared rare Humboldt penguins
• Reptile House – opened April 2013 by TV wildlife presenter Mike Dilger following a £15,000 refurbishment programme which included new entrance, enclosures, walkways, signage and review of stock
• £7,000 refurbishment and extension to triple aviaries launched May 2013
• New £2,000 reindeer shed with viewing panel opened July 2013
• Resurfacing/repairs to roadways across 40-acre site - Phase 1 £330,000 completed July 2013
• Gelada baboons sited adjacent to chairlift bank (£20,000) opened August 2013
• Construction of £30,000 walkway between Penguin Bay and Reptile House opened August 2013
Mr Suddock added:?“In the past decade we’ve won several major tourism awards, gained national and international recognition for conservation and research work and increased our membership.
“We no longer attract visitors from solely the Midlands, but across the country and overseas, so we must be getting it right and the future’s looking good.
He added: “Many years ago we realised that we could not be purely dependent on any development handouts and in recent times we have been making changes paid for entirely by our own funds – and that’s something to be immensely proud of in these economic times.”