Fota Wildlife Park recorded their busiest day on record today with almost 9,000 people visiting the wildlife sanctuary.
Park director Sean McKeown told The Echo they were expecting between 6,000 and 6,500 visitors but saw an extra 2,500 animal enthusiasts visiting the park.
“We had a particularly busy day today. The good weather always helps. Patrick’s Day is always wet and cold and by Mid April when the sun appears everyone comes out, like hibernating bears, all at once," he said.
Over the Easter break, from last Thursday to the Bank Holiday Monday, Mr McKeown said the park welcomed almost 30,000 people through the gates.
The Park director said Fota normally gets around 460,000 visitors annually, but if the numbers keep going like they are, the aim is to hit half a million visits by the end of the year.
“It’s a big ask, but we might make it,” Mr McKeown said.
The park, which has the capacity for 12,000 people, recently welcomed four newborn Asian lion cubs to the park, which Mr McKeown said possibly piqued the interest of the public.
“The cubs are getting on very well,” Mr McKeown said, “Their mother is very relaxed and chilled so they are all getting on well. The cubs can go in and out of the enclosure so they can decide themselves if they want to be seen by the public or not. It is up to them.”
The eight-week-old cubs join their parent’s first litter who are now one and a half years old – Amira, Arya and Loki and aunt Gita in their specially designed habitat in the park.
Mr McKeown said that the most popular animals in the park with parents and children alike include the giraffes and the penguins.
“The top five or six would be the giraffes, the cheetahs, the tigers and lions, the rhino and the penguins, they are very popular.”
The park is constantly expanding and evolving and Mr McKeown said the next development would be a Madagascar village for the lemurs and other Madagascar animals.
As part of this village, there will be an indoor area where people can learn more about the animals and also about the forest destruction of the unique fauna that is ongoing in Madagascar.
“We are very weather dependent and we are trying to change that. We want to extend the seasons and appeal to people all year round.
“Also we want to continue the work we are doing in conservation.”