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Fota Wildlife Park facing funding shortage from June

Fota Wildlife Park in Cork says it has funding to stay operational until June, but that costs may...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

15.08 24 Mar 2021


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Fota Wildlife Park facing fund...

Fota Wildlife Park facing funding shortage from June

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

15.08 24 Mar 2021


Share this article


Fota Wildlife Park in Cork says it has funding to stay operational until June, but that costs may have to be cut after that.

Its director Sean McKeown told Moncrieff they are hoping the Government will step in if it gets to that point.

"It costs about €380,000 a month to run it - that includes feeding the animals, paying the animal staff, etc.

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"It's slightly higher, possibly, during the winter months from the animal side - feeding the animals and heating - but then lower in staff numbers due to the winter.

Fota Wildlife Park Picture by: Facebook/Fota Wildlife Park

He said they have received Government support, but they were expecting to re-open in the new year.

"Last December we got €550,000 and at that time we said we had funding to cover us to the end of March, and after that we could be facing difficulties.

"When we said that we didn't realise we were going to be closed for January, February and March."

He said the funding would allow the park to continue to operate "until at least June".

While he is hopeful of more Government funding going forward, he said costs could be an issue.

"We may have to reduce our costs, but we're not like a normal industry where we can just turn off the lights and walk away and come back two or three months later.

"We have to actually look after the animals."

'Very social animals'

He also thanked the public for their generosity "over the last few days in donating money" - but added that June will be crunch time.

"If we get to a June situation, or a situation where we no longer have funds, then we would hope that the Government would step in at that stage".

On the suggestion of re-homing animals, he said this issue is particularly difficult now.

Fota Wildlife Park Picture by: Facebook/Fota Wildlife Park

"It's not something we would be able to sort of move animals around, and the other issues around Brexit and getting paperwork to be able to move animals from one country to another - or to one facility to another - so there's lots of technical difficulties around it as well".

He said while the animals generally are happy to interact with staff, some more than others are missing visitors.

"The primates, particularly, are very social animals - they're more intelligent, let's say, and capable to recognise individuals.

"They also in many cases like the public, but we have enrichment for the animals.

"We give them food in certain devices that they have to spend time opening it or our cheetah race where we put some food on a zipline and they have to run round after it.

"So those activities continue anyway, so we try and keep them as active and as interested as possible".

Fota Wildlife Park Picture by: Facebook/Fota Wildlife Park

Fota Wildlife Park closed to the public on January 8th 2021, with its website noting it is shut "for the foreseeable future".

Pre-COVID in 2019, the park received 462,000 visitors and income of €5.2m annually.

It says the overall impact of the pandemic was a loss of 18% in visitor numbers down to 385,000, visitor income was also down 17% in 2020 compared to 2019.

The park spends on average €44,000 a month on the food and veterinary care for its 1,350 animals - costing on average €380,000 a month to run the park.

Over the past 10 years the number of visitors in the off-season months October to March have grown by 250%.

Fota also financially supports and donates resources to conservation projects in Ireland and abroad - such as the Irish Ladybird Research Project, the Natterjack Toad Head Starter programme and the European Life-funded Corncrake project.

Main image: Picture by: Facebook/Fota Wildlife Park

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Animals Cork Covid-19 Fota Wildlife Park Government Funding Moncrieff Sean McKeown

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