Fota Animal Park warns it faces closure due to income crisis
One of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions, Fota Wildlife Park in Cork, has warned it could face permanent closure unless it is allowed to reopen in the coming weeks.
East Cork facility says it now only has sufficient funds to continue operating until June and is in desperate need of the income, even though it is only used as an outdoor facility in accordance with restrictions relaxed from Covid-19.
Fota manager Sean McKeown said the park relied almost entirely on revenue from ticket sales.
âAbout 95% of our income comes from visitors who come to the park, so we totally depend on them to manage the park,â he told RTE.
“If we don’t have them here, we have problems. We have funds to continue until June.”
Mr McKeown said management would like to reopen the park as a passage area within the next two to three weeks – a reopening that would see all interior areas closed.
Mr McKeown pointed out that the animals on site are well cared for but they really need to be opened again.
It costs â¬ 380,000 to run Fota each month.
The 100-acre park is one of the world’s leading breeding centers for endangered creatures and has 135 different animal species.
A nonprofit charitable organization, Fota relies heavily on its doorstep revenues, which provide about 95 percent of its annual income.
Fota has an annual turnover of around 6 million euros with more than 150 employees in full summer activity.
Due to the Covid-19 shutdown, Fota has had to put on hold long-planned redevelopment work on its popular Monkey Island, while vital flood protection programs have also been blocked.
Each month, the food bill for Fota’s animals is around â¬ 15,000.
The majority of Fota’s animals represent some of the most endangered species on the planet.
Opened in 1983 on part of the former Smith-Barry estate, the park welcomes nearly 470,000 visitors per year.
About 50 percent of visitors to Fota are tourists, and the park provides a â¬ 200 million boost to the local economy each season.
Five years ago, Fota opened her new $ 6million Asian sanctuary and added Asian lion pride to the list of endangered species she now hopes to breed.
They joined Sumatran Tigers as the park extended its âBig Catâ status which, since the park opened, has revolved around cheetahs only.
A total of 14 million euros has been invested by Fota in a major expansion of its animal facilities and attractions since 2010.
Since its opening, Fota has established itself as one of the most successful parks in the world for breeding programs for endangered species.
Endangered species successfully bred in Fota have been distributed to zoos and animal parks on four continents.
Last December, the Office of Public Works (OPW) announced the allocation of â¬ 3 million in government pandemic funding for Dublin Zoo and Fota Animal Park, of which â¬ 1 million has been allocated at the animal park of Fota.
It helped the park, but the money is lacking.
At the time, OPW Minister Patrick O’Donovan said he was aware of the “catastrophic effect” of Covid-19 on the revenues of the Cork Zoo and Park. Fota Wildlife Park has received some support from the public, visitors, annual pass holders and schools following the recent ‘Save Dublin Zoo’ campaign which highlighted the challenges faced by zoological facilities. in Ireland. Fota is a non-profit conservation organization that participates in the EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquariums) EEP and has been involved in the conservation and reintroduction of some extinct or near-extinct species into the nature. These include the scimitar-horned oryx as well as the European bison. It is currently Ireland’s second largest tourist attraction outside of Leinster.