Monkey business booming
A BABY boom is helping an Irish wildlife park to defy the tourism downturn.
Fota Wildlife Park in Cork is celebrating a host of cute new arrivals ranging from a baby Lar Gibbon, Ring-tailed Lemur, Agile Gibbon and Colobus monkey.
The latest arrival is a baby Lar Gibbon that was born last month.
The baby is as yet unnamed because its mother, Nomphon, is so protective that park staff have not been able to get close enough to examine the new-born and determine its gender.
The baby brings the Lar Gibbon population at Fota to four.
The 'baby boom' is part of the reason Fota has defied the tourism downturn since 2008 -- and last year actually reported a 7pc increase in visitor numbers.
This year, the park is on course to record a 6pc hike in visitor numbers.
Fota director Sean McKeown said the figures indicated a bright future for the park.
"I am delighted that the park is increasing its numbers year-on-year beating the national trend, I believe there is a very exciting future ahead for the park," he said.
Mr McKeown took over as Fota director last April. He was the original director of the park back in 1983 when it was first opened by then-President Patrick Hillery.
He spent 13 years as the park director before moving to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates where he ran the Sheikh Butti Maktoum Wildlife Centre. A number of new attractions including the hugely popular Cheetah Run have contributed to its surging popularity.
Fota employs 85 staff and now ranks sixth in the list of Ireland's top 10 tourism attractions.
Fota stressed that the factors behind the park's success included an integrated marketing campaign, a new website, additional on-site facilities and, arguably most important of all, the plethora of new animal arrivals at the east Cork park.
Among the most-popular new arrivals is Finn the giraffe, who next month celebrates his second birthday.
The park has also benefited from a €4.2m 'facelift' for its main entrance, which includes a new gift shop. The investment is the biggest in the park's 27-year history.