Monday 26 September 2016

Asian lions roar into Fota Park

Published 03/06/2016 | 02:30

The two young females, Gita (pictured) and Gira, arrived from Helsinki Zoo in Finland and go on public display from tomorrow. Photo: Darragh Kane
The two young females, Gita (pictured) and Gira, arrived from Helsinki Zoo in Finland and go on public display from tomorrow. Photo: Darragh Kane

The Rebel County has a new King. Fota Wildlife Park in east Cork now expects 'big cat fever' to copper-fasten its status as Ireland's fastest-expanding visitor attraction with a new pride of Asian lions set to prove the stars of an exciting €6m Asian Sanctuary.

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The park, Ireland's seventh most popular tourist attraction, this year hopes to attract almost 500,000 visitors with a surge in tourist numbers expected thanks to the arrival of the Asian lions.

The two young females, Gita and Gira, arrived from Helsinki Zoo in Finland and go on public display from tomorrow.

The duo are sisters and are two and a half years old.

An adult male Asian lion is due to arrive later this summer from a Spanish zoo and Fota will commence an ambitious breeding programme in their state-of-the-art lion paddock and den.

Fota director, Sean McKeown, said there are just 400 Asian lions left in a single area of India.

"This will be a very important breeding programme and we are delighted to add lions to the animals here at Fota," he said.

Mr McKeown pointed out that 50pc of Fota's visitors are now tourists with the park helping deliver a €150m local economic boost. More than €10m has been invested by Fota in redevelopment since 2010.

Irish Independent

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