Sunday 21 December 2014

It's brass monkeys and miserable meerkats

Published 08/02/2014 | 02:30

Meerkats in Fota
Spider monkeys huddling together in Fota Wildlife Park, Cork yesterday. Floods and torrential rainfall have kept the animals in their houses for almost four days this week. Picture: MICHAEL MAC SWEENEY/PROVISION

MOTHER Nature may have made a monkey out of Ireland's flood defences but it was no laughing matter for Fota Wildlife Park's water-hating monkeys and lemurs.

Floods and torrential rainfall kept the east Cork wildlife park's monkeys huddled in their houses for almost four days this week.

Minor flooding also hit areas surrounding Monkey Island in the park.

The fear of gale-force winds prompted the park management to close Fota today on public safety grounds though the facility will re-open on Sunday.

"Monkeys don't like water and they especially don't like floods – they are afraid of it," Fota marketing director Stephen Ryan said.

"They've spent almost all of their time in their houses because they just don't like water or storms."

Floodwaters started to recede from yesterday morning but with high winds and torrential rainfall forecast again for the weekend, the monkeys were making the most of the clear skies.

Monkeys and lemurs are amongst the most popular attractions at Fota, which is now Cork's No 1 visitor attraction with almost 500,000 visitors annually.

The park, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, is now planning a €6m expansion which will see the facility add 40pc to its wildlife reserve area.

Fota's meerkat troop has also suffered through the unpleasant weather.

Like monkeys, meerkats hate water – especially heavy rain – though they can swim in an emergency. But Fota's hugely popular African cousins of the mongoose also dislike the cold and have revelled in the provision of heaters throughout the recent cold spell.

Irish Independent

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