Fota Wildlife Park has welcomed the news it is to receive much-needed funding from the Government following a difficult year for the park.
Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien and Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan announced at the weekend that they have secured €1.6m in funding for the zoo sector through the National Parks and Wildlife Service at the Department of Housing, Local Government, and Heritage. A total of €1.1m of the allocation will be shared between Fota Wildlife Park and Dublin Zoo.
The funding comes as the Save Dublin Zoo campaign outlined the issues faced by the zoo sector as both Dublin Zoo and Fota reported financial difficulties as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.
“Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on so many aspects of our society but it is important that we support this sector to ensure zoos do not face a welfare crisis this winter due to lack of access to funding,” said Mr O’Brien.
Mr Noonan added: “The State does not ordinarily provide funding to the zoo sector but this has been an incredibly challenging year due to the pandemic, and our support recognises the vital role played by our zoos as networks for global conservation of biodiversity, as centres of learning, and places where lifelong memories of families and children are made.”
Fota Wildlife Park director Sean McKeown welcomed the funding and the recognition of the importance of the sector in Ireland.
“It’s fantastic that the Government has recognised the value of zoos generally in the community here in Ireland and the benefit that they provide not only to the animals but also to the visiting public,” said Mr McKeown.
“We had a decent enough summer, but we had an absolutely terrible Easter so it’s great that that’s there from the Government and we won’t close and they don’t want to see us close and they’re willing to put some money behind it.”
Mr McKeown also said that the funding announcement has come during what is typically a difficult season for the wildlife park, made even more so by the lack of funds available.
“We’re coming to the crunch point in zoos because they’re a season of low visitation but, at the same time, expenses are high in terms of running,” he said.
“Food and electricity are all much higher in the winter months than they are in the summer months.
“Hopefully, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.”