Varadkar to consider funding Fota Wildlife Park development

Minister says he is ‘very impressed’ with ‘fabulous’ east Cork attraction

A cheetah at Fota Wildlife Park. More than 14,000 people visited Fota during the June Bank Holiday weekend as the east Cork attraction opened its new tiger forest. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

A cheetah at Fota Wildlife Park. More than 14,000 people visited Fota during the June Bank Holiday weekend as the east Cork attraction opened its new tiger forest. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar has promised to look “very seriously” at an application for €2 million in funding from Fota Wildlife Park to help develop the park after a visit there at the weekend to open a new attraction.

Mr Varadkar officially opened the new tropical house at Fota Wildlife Park and said he was hugely impressed with the strides made by the park in developing attractions and growing its business which expects to draw more than 400,000 visitors this year.

“I can’t make any commitments at this stage but certainly I’m very impressed with what they’ve always done here – I first came here as a child with my aunt and then was back here a year or two ago so this is my third visit and they’ve added something new each time.

“It’s a fabulous facility and it ties into the government plans to have more people visit Cork, particularly UK visitors, as a weekend break destination and Fota Wildlife Park, particularly as a family destination, has a lot to offer in that regard,” he said.

“I got a very good presentation from Fota today and what I’ve said to them is to engage with Failte Ireland which is the funding body and we will certainly look at their business case and take it very seriously to ensure that they continue to prosper.”

The new tropical house at Fota features reptiles, amphibians, exotic fish and tropical butterflies kept in a temperature controlled environment.

Fota Wildlife Park director, Sean McKeown said that the new all-weather attraction, which includes a two-metre long boa constrictor among the residents, gives visitors “a real sense of what it is like to be in a rainforest with tropical temperatures and humid air”.

The new tropical house comes just weeks after Fota opened the first part of its new 27 acre Asian sanctuary which will ultimately see it become home to Asian lions, Indian rhinos as well as Sumatran tigers who already proving hugely popular since their arrival last month

More than 14,000 people visited Fota during the June Bank Holiday weekend as the east Cork attraction opened its new tiger forest, home to two year-old male, Denar, from Warsaw Zoo in Poland and two year old female, Dourga from Nesles in France.

Mr McKeown explained that Fota is participating in a breeding programme to try to conserve Sumatran tigers which are under threat in the wild and the hope is that, over the coming years, Denar and Dourga will breed and help grow the population.

“The Sumatran tigers are the rarest of the tigers and we already have been very successful with our cheetah breeding programme so we are going to participate now in a breeding programme for the Sumatran tigers run by the European Zoo Association.

“There are currently about 180 Sumatran tigers in the European breeding programme and the idea is to get it up to around 300 – to keep genetic diversity as high as possible and keep the population stable and our aim is to breed and house perhaps six or seven tigers here in Fota.”