Recession a boost to Fota wildlife park in busy year
RECORD numbers of visitors flocked to the Fota wildlife park last year, writes Georgina O'Halloran.
The Cork park saw more than 390,000 people passing through its gates.
The 70-acre park, which opened to the public on Fota Island, Cork, in 1983, has seen an 18pc increase in visitor numbers since 2008.
Head of marketing at the park, Stephen Ryan, said it was very encouraging to see that numbers had increased again in 2011.
"The current economic climate is a factor in the increase," he said. "People are looking for good deals at home and we have seen a huge increase in Irish holidaymakers here at the park.
"Since the recession we have seen a lot more families with young children coming to the park," he said.
Staff were kept busy at the wildlife park in 2011, with the births of a large number of animals, including meerkats, white-tailed sea eagles and giraffes.
Zebra, howler monkeys, lion-tailed macaques, kangaroo, peacocks, ostriches and European Bison were among the other exotic animals born there last year.
Other highlights of 2011 included the official opening of its new entrance complex by former President of Ireland Mary McAleese and the annual BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Acquariums) conference, which took place there in June 2011.
Meanwhile, the park is celebrating a big birthday this month as a Columbian spider monkey, named Ol Blue Eyes, turns 42. She has outlived expectations as the average life span of the breed is 24.