As Fota celebrates its 30th anniversary this year 2013, plans are afoot for a €6m expansion that will add almost 40% percent to its wildlife reserve area. The new extension an ambitious Asian sanctuary will see the park bring in tigers, lions and rhinos to add to its large selection of wildlife. Whilst the proposed new section should open in 2015, plans are already starting with planning permission for the 25-acre Asian-themed wildlife reserve already submitted. Later on in 2013 Fota will get its first two Sumatran tigers, a breeding pair, who will be the stars of the new project, arriving from zoos in France and Germany by September.
The wildlife park, a popular tourist destination in east Cork, is already noted worldwide for being a top breeding centre for endangered species, its cheetah programme in particular being ranked as one of the most successful in the world. Fota aims to transfer this success to the Sumatran tiger whose numbers have depleted in the last decade.
With concerns mounting for the Sumatran tiger’s survival, Fota islands proposed plans to introduce them to their conservation schemes couldn’t come at a more appropriate time. Over the past 25 years, estimated numbers have plummeted from 500 left in the wild in 1998 to just 300 by 2009. Fota hopes to help breed Sumatran tigers before working with the Indonesian government, to try and reintroduce them to protected habitats in Sumatra.
As Fota Wildlife Parks director, Sean McKeown says “What we are trying to do is achieve our aim of becoming an important wildlife education and conservation body and our reputation is growing internationally.” With their notable record, the Sumatran Tiger has found itself a new champion and hopefully the development of this important extension will carry on smoothly in the next few years. And once funding is cleared, it is hoped that the new Asian Sanctuary will be fully open for the 2015 season.