'The giraffes, zebras and the ostriches are having the odd scuffle'; Life at Fota without visitors

'The giraffes, zebras and the ostriches are having the odd scuffle'; Life at Fota without visitors
An Asian lion going for a stroll at Fota Wildlife Park, Carrigtwohill, Co Cork.Picture: David Keane.

THE animals at Fota Wildlife Park are too busy with each other to miss their absent audience at the moment, according to the Park director, Sean McKeown.

Mr McKeown, who contracted Covid-19 himself at the start of the outbreak but has since recovered, said the animals are in mating and breeding season and had plenty to occupy themselves while the park was closed to the public.

As zoos in England and the US, as well as other wildlife parks, have reported their animals missing the visitors, Mr McKeown said his animals didn’t seem too bothered.

Two of the male rhinos at Fota Wildlife Park.Photo Darragh Kane
Two of the male rhinos at Fota Wildlife Park.Photo Darragh Kane

“The animals, because they are kept in groups, are more interested in each other, they are not really interested in the public when they are here. 

"They don’t show a lot of interest in them except the rangers that are looking after them.” 

Two baby Spider Monkeys with their mothers in Fota Wildlife ParkPhoto Darragh Kane
Two baby Spider Monkeys with their mothers in Fota Wildlife ParkPhoto Darragh Kane

Mr McKeown said the animals are used to quite a lot of space.

“The giraffes and the zebras and the ostriches are interacting and having the odd scuffle.”

Park rangers also carry out "enrichment activities" with the animals to keep them busy.

A male peacock spreading its feathers.Photo Darragh Kane
A male peacock spreading its feathers.Photo Darragh Kane

“For example, the giraffes have boxes where we put fruit and vegetables into and they have to use their tongue to get them out.” 

He said people have an idea that the animals are very much dependent on them, but their main interest is food and that interaction is with the rangers who they build up relationships with.

Mr McKeown thinks it will be the end of May before they are back up and running fully.

Asians lions relaxing at Fota Wildlife Park, Carrigtwohill, Co Cork.Picture: David Keane.
Asians lions relaxing at Fota Wildlife Park, Carrigtwohill, Co Cork.Picture: David Keane.

Mr Keown contracted coronavirus at the start of the outbreak, along with his wife Barbara and his daughter Faye. He said he is very aware of the importance of the measures in place to protect against the spread of Covid-19, saying the virus wiped him out for 12 days.

“A lot of things have to happen before we can open. 

"It is going to take some time. The numbers that are testing positive and deaths are quite high.” 

A young ostrich in Fota Wildlife Park.Photo Darragh Kane
A young ostrich in Fota Wildlife Park.Photo Darragh Kane

Park management is hoping to benefit from people staying closer to home in the summer with families and couples visiting the park for a day out in July and August.

“If that doesn’t happen, it puts a lot of pressure on us,” Mr McKeown said.

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