AN IRISH wildlife park that lost €1.2 million during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown has celebrated a triple boost with the birth of adorable cheetah cubs.
Fota Wildlife Park - which re-opened on May 20 - confirmed the birth of three Northern Cheetah cubs to parents, Gráinne and Sam.
The cubs, all male, were born on St Patrick's Day just as the lockdown was about to commence.
Cheetahs rank as amongst the most successful species at Fota with a remarkable total of 230 cubs born over the past 35 years when the breeding programme first began.
Fota has now launched a public competition to help choose suitable names for the trio.
There are only 7,100 cheetahs left in the wild and they are considered highly endangered.
The Northern Cheetah is a subspecies which is even more vulnerable with only 800 left in the wild.
Fota's breeding programme is now a critical part of saving the species.
All three cubs will be available to view with their parents at Fota which is now operating a pre-booking system for all visitors.
The park each month faces animal feeding costs of €30,000 with visitor numbers crucial for the not-for-profit organisation.
Fota Director Sean McKeown said the cubs were a sign of brighter times for the park.
“We are delighted to announce the birth of these cheetah cubs today and we are also very happy to report that public and visitor feedback since re-opening has been very positive," he said.
"Of course, public health, safety and adhering to the Covid-19 prevention advice is paramount here, therefore it is great to hear the positive feedback from the public.”
“An important part of our mission is to operate breeding programmes for endangered species worldwide."
"Some of the world’s most endangered species reside here such as the Indian rhino, Asian lion and Sumatran tiger who are all participating in the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) run species management programmes.
"Gate receipts, entry tickets and membership sales provide the vast portion of our income which allows us to continue our conservation work and education programmes on the need to conserve our global biodiversity.”