Dublin Zoo rejects claims it paid for hot tub, sauna for director’s lodge while ‘begging for funds’

Claims made by People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy in Dáil on Wednesday

Dublin Zoo has rejected claims made in the Dáil on Wednesday regarding the mismanagement of funds during the Covid-19 pandemic.

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy claimed that a hot tub and sauna were added to the director of Dublin Zoo’s on-site living lodge at a time when the “zoo was begging for funds to keep animals fed”.

Mr Murphy raised a number of issues about the wellbeing of staff and animals at Dublin Zoo in the chamber this afternoon.

“In relation to mismanagement of funds, during 2020 to 2021, as the zoo was begging for funds to keep animals fed, the lakeside lodge where the director lives as a tenant was refurbished with a hot tub, a sauna and an extension and the garden was landscaped,” Mr Murphy said. “It is not clear where the funds for those luxury items came from.”


In a statement, Dublin Zoo said it categorically refuted the “unfounded assertations and allegations” made in the Oireachtas.

“Save Dublin Zoo funds were exclusively allocated for animal welfare only – food, heat and veterinary bills. The development mentioned was financed by the Zoo’s own revenue generated in 2021 when Covid restrictions had eased,” it said.

“The specific amenities mentioned, the hot tub and sauna, were private purchases paid for by the Zoo Director – absolutely no Dublin Zoo funds were used to purchase these. Information on how Dublin Zoo allocates annual revenue generated from gate receipts, and the specific funds from the Save Dublin Zoo campaign, is transparently detailed in our annual reports, which are publicly accessible.”

Mr Murphy also said serious allegations had been made about the mistreatment of animals, a culture of bullying and mistreatment of staff while adding there had been no independent investigation.

He said in relation to the treatment of animals, in October 2022, the elephant herd was divided into two and elephant bulls were left without access to fresh drinking water while in their outside habitat for nine months.

“They had been using a contaminated water supply,” he said. “That goes against the National Parks and Wildlife Service’s Irish Standards of Modern Zoo Practice which says that fresh water should be supplied on a daily basis.”

The Dublin Southwest TD said in early November of this year, elephants were inappropriately sedated.

“They were given a powerful sedative in order to move them to Cincinnati Zoo to make them easier to manage and there was also plan to winch one of the female elephants into a transport crate, again against European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, EAZA, best practice guidelines,” he said.

Mr Murphy also said there was a series of allegations relating to staff and a “fundamental problem” whereby HR had been outsourced to a company, “which has effectively ignored the issues raised by staff repeatedly”.

“It is not clear why Dublin Zoo does not have its own HR department,” he said.

Dublin Zoo said the allegations regarding the elephants were baseless and “completely void of any factual accuracy”.

“As proven by a Government investigation, the elephant herd had round the clock access to the bull house which has fresh water feeders, with the exception of less than an hour each day when the house was cleaned and enrichment provided,” the statement added.

“The allegation regarding inappropriate sedation is patently false with no evidence to support such a serious allegation.

“Issues raised by members of staff at Dublin Zoo are treated with the utmost sensitivity and seriousness and are thoroughly investigated.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times