One of Cork’s best attractions and Ireland’s top places to visit, Fota Wildlife Park is a must-visit for a day of family fun and activity. Located just outside the Great Island of Cobh, Fota Wildlife Park and Fota House and Gardens is at the foot of the stone road bridge and a close neighbour of the fully restored 15th century Belvelly Castle. It is easily accessible by car, train or even by feet when you are visiting from the lovely town of Cobh.
With a vast land space of 100 acres, the park has 4.5 kilometres of internal roads for your stroll and more spaces for further developments. There are two ways to get in: 1) by car (please note there is a parking charge for every vehicle) and 2) by train if you are taking the Fota Train Station on Irish Rail’s Cork – Cobh line. Parking is a separate fee because the car park is maintained by Fota House and Gardens which you can also visit before or after your time at the Wildlife Park.
We personally recommend spending some time on Fota House and Gardens. There is an arboretum, Victorian Garden, glasshouses, orchard, pithouses and other garden features and many plant varieties. The ancestral home of Smith-Barry, Fota House itself is a beautifully maintained mansion and is also a museum after having been accredited by the Irish Heritage Council.
So what makes this park special? First and foremost the Fota Wildlife Parm animal collection. They have big carnivores like tiger, lion and cheetah, and also big herbivores like giraffe, rhino, zebra, bison and more. From birds to rodents and native to non native, the whole park is a very good place to see and learn about these animals.
The park is not like a zoo in ordinary sense. While it’s obvious that the predators and other animals are enclosed, some animals are allowed to roam freely in the park, examples of this are ring-tailed lemurs and wallabies. Some animals are mixed with other species and shared the same space as well, just look at the giraffes, zebras and ostriches mingling unobtrusively.
Since its opening in 1983, Fota Wildlife Park has been through a lot of development and challenges. One of these exciting additions is the “Cheetah Run” where this big cat is made to run and chase for his food suspended on a hanging device. Another interesting habitat addition is the opening of “Asian Sanctuary” in 2017. It’s biggest challenge is probably it’s prolonged closure during the pandemic, as it prompted fundraiser and donation campaign from the park and the public to help with the upkeep of the animals and facility.
One can argue that this park is not just a favorite for tourist and animal lovers, but also for conservationatists. Fota Wildlife Park has a conservation program and an animal breeding program in place. The importance of conservation starts with educating the students and public on tours and activities, and on the park’s effort to reduce, reuse and recycle waste being produced in their territory.
To conclude this post i just want to say that if you’ve been to other zoos, you probably would notice how sometimes restricted the animals are, but with Fota Wildlife Park i have a sense that the animals have enough freedom in their enclosure and captivity here; and as an animal lover, it makes me happy to see this.
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