Tuesday 18 September 2018

Fota Wildlife Park celebrating baby boom during the heatwave

Fota Wildlife Park is currently enjoying something of a baby boom
Photo: Gerard McCarthy
Fota Wildlife Park is currently enjoying something of a baby boom Photo: Gerard McCarthy
Three Scimitar-horned oryx calves and two European bison calves born within weeks of each other Photo: Gerard McCarthy
Baby Boom at Fota, three Scimitar-horned oryx calves and two European bison calves born within weeks of each other Photo: Gerard McCarthy
Baby Boom at Fota Wildlife Park Photo: Gerard McCarthy
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

FOTA Wildlife Park is celebrating a baby boom in the heatwave.

Cork's No 1 tourist attraction confirmed it has five new calves born over the past three weeks.

The five new calves include two female European bison (Bison Bonasus) and three Scimitar-horned Oryx (Oryx Dammah), two females and a male.

Both species are vitally important to the conservation work that the non-for-profit Fota Wildlife Park does as the two species were previously extinct in the wild – cooperative breeding and re-introduction programmes, including with animals specifically from Fota, have helped ensure that bison and Oryx herds now live free roaming in parts of Europe and North Africa.

Baby Boom at Fota, three Scimitar-horned oryx calves and two European bison calves born within weeks of each other Photo: Gerard McCarthy
Baby Boom at Fota, three Scimitar-horned oryx calves and two European bison calves born within weeks of each other Photo: Gerard McCarthy

Fota's lead ranger Aidan Rafferty said the births again underline the successful breeding programmes at the east Cork park.

“As a conservation charity it’s very important to see the successful breeding programmes continuing here, especially when these species were extinct in the wild," he said.

"The descendants of animals who were re-located from Fota Wildlife Park have become part of the mission to create viable and self-sustaining free ranging bison and Oryx herds.”

Scimitar-horned Oryx, Joffrey, is the father to the three Oryx calves and he arrived at Fota in December 2016 from Marwell Zoo as part of the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme (EEP).

Fota Wildlife Park has had considerable success with this species as a male born at the park in 2003 has been re-introduced into the wild in Dghoumes National Park, Tunisia.

That male became the dominant bull in a group of 17 animals and has successfully sired a number of calves.

The dominant European bison bull, Hyssop, who joined the herd four years ago from Port Lympne Wildlife Reserve in the UK, is father to the two new female bison calves.

Fota has enjoyed particular success with bison breeding since 1999 when the species was introduced to the park.

More than 50pc of Fota's visitors are now tourists with the park helping deliver a €150m annual boost to the local economy.

Around €15 million has been invested by Fota in a major expansion of its facilities and animal attractions since 2010 with the park adding major species including Asian lions and rhinos. Fota is now the top tourist attraction in the south-west.

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