Wildlife park hopes €6m tiger forest will be a roaring success
THE big cats are on the prowl.
From this weekend visitors to Fota Wildlife Park in east Cork will have the opportunity to take in the attraction's new Tiger Forest, the first phase of an ambitious new €6m Asian Sanctuary at the park.
The forest will be home to a pair of endangered Sumatran tigers, but officials say they plan to have more through breeding and new arrivals from other zoos and parks.
The two-year-old tigers were brought from Warsaw Zoo and a cat sanctuary in Nesles, France. The Sumatran Tiger is critically endangered with an estimated population of approximately 400 in the wild.
Stephen Ryan, head of marketing at Fota Wildlife Park, said that upon completion the 27-acre Asian Sanctuary will grow the size of the park by 40pc and he predicts this will extend the typical visit by two hours.
The not-for-profit attraction has not received government grants and the expansion's funding comes from money generated by the park and public donations.
"Next year we hope, if we can get the public's backing and maybe some sponsorship through corporate sponsors, that we will start work on phase two which will include the Indian rhino and in phase three we'll have Asian lions and a bear species, so it's very exciting," Mr Ryan said.
"At the moment people spend about three to four hours at the park. We expect by the time we complete this in two year's time that they will spend approximately six hours and in some cases they might spend two days here, which means more bed nights in the city which has a knock-on effect for the hotels, bed and breakfasts and self-catering, so it is of huge economic benefit."
Fota Wildlife Park has an average of 380,000 visitors a year, and Mr Ryan said that they are hopeful that the new Tiger Forest will see that figure top 400,000 this year, and reach 500,000 by the time the three phases of the sanctuary are complete.