Fota Wildlife Park
Information about the park
Fota Wildlife Park is a 100-acre (40 ha) wildlife park located on Fota Island, near Carrigtwohill, County Cork, Ireland. It is an independently funded, not-for-profit charity that is also one of the leading tourism, wildlife and conservation attractions in Ireland. The park has an annual attendance of 440,000 visitors.
Opened in 1983, the park is home to nearly 30 mammal and 50 bird species. Some of the animals roam freely with the visitors, such as the ring-tailed lemurs and wallabies, while larger animals, including the giraffe and bison, live in paddocks with barriers that are intended to be unobtrusive for visitors to view the animals in a more natural environment. Fota Wildlife Park also has red pandas, tapirs, siamang gibbons and other types of animals.
Image: Cheetah at Fota Wildlife Park
Fota Island was the former home of the Smith-Barry family, descendants of Normans who came to Ireland in the 12th century. While the family’s lands were originally more extensive, they dwindled over time until they were restricted to Fota Island. The estate was sold to University College Cork in 1975.
In the meantime, Dublin Zoo had reached maximum development with the space available. So in 1979, the director of Dublin Zoo proposed to the Zoological Society of Ireland Council that a wildlife park should be established, and the site at Fota Island was proposed. The same year it was formally agreed that the society would establish a wildlife park at Fota. University College Cork offered the land free of charge under license agreement. Fota Wildlife Park became a joint project of the Zoological Society of Ireland and University College Cork. Fundraising committees were set up in both Dublin and Cork. All the funds for the development were raised from public subscriptions, apart from a grant from Bord Fáilte for the perimeter fence.
The first animals started to arrive to Fota Wildlife Park in late 1982, and Fota Wildlife Park was opened in the summer of 1983 by the then President of Ireland, Dr. Patrick Hillery.
Cheetahs, by their nature, will not work for food if they do not have to, and to exercise the animals and for behavioral enrichment reasons, the park installed a "Cheetah Run" in 2006. This device suspends food items on a wire that travels 10 feet (3.0 m) off the ground, at approximately 65 kilometres per hour (40 mph).
As part of the park's conservation and education mandate, an education centre was opened, and runs courses on a range of topics including ecology and conservation. These are aimed at students at primary school and secondary school level, and the centre also runs summer camps during school holidays. Every year, almost 13,000 students pass through Fota's education centre.
Fota Wildlife Park celebrated its 30th anniversary on 22 June 2013, and following this anniversary, announced the addition of a "Tropical House" and 27 acre "Asian Sanctuary". As of 2015, habitats for Sumatran tigers, Indian rhinos and lion-tailed macaques were opened, with enclosures for Asian lions planned as later additions to the "Asian Sanctuary".
Fota Wildlife Park has been awarded 'Best Family Day Out' for both Munster and Cork on several occasions. In November 2016, it was awarded 'Experience Destination of the Year' by Customer Experience Insights. It is also in the Top 25 Zoos / Animal Parks in Europe in the 2015 Tripadvisor Travellers Choice Awards.