Fota Wildlife Park team humbled by generous donations from the general public

Fota Wildlife Park team humbled by generous donations from the general public

Sean McKeown, Director of Fota Wildlife Park said his team has been humbled by the recent financial donations from the general public. Picture Denis Minihane

FOTA Wildlife Park which has been closed to the general public since January 8, has received over €10,000 in individual private donations on their website in recent days.

The general public was reacting to recent financial concerns expressed by their team and how closure to the public was gravely affecting the Park which is a conservation charity.

Fota Wildlife Park is very dependent on visitor income and 95% of the operating costs are reliant on gate receipts, annual pass sales and gift shop revenues. 

Recent government funding supports means that Fota Wildlife Park can survive financially until June 2021. However, if Fota Wildlife Park misses the peak visitor income period of July and August then the Park will be facing financing difficulties and possible closure for September and beyond.

They are hopeful they will be allowed to reopen in the coming weeks. Sean McKeown, Director of Fota Wildlife Park writing on their official blog said his team has been humbled by the response. 

“I would like to thank the public for their generosity. We have been humbled by their donations. We received over €10,000 of individual private donations on our website over the weekend and we have seen reports of members of the public setting up GoFundMe initiatives,” he said.

Mr McKeown said the prospect of no income streams for the foreseeable future is very worrying. 

“The running costs at Fota are approximately €380,000 a month."

"It is a simple fact of life that if we have the continued prospect of no income and possible future Covid restrictions that would keep the Park closed until after the summer season, then closure may be a real possibility. However, we would like to stress that this would be a worst-case scenario,” he added.

Recent government funding of €550,000 from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the confirmation of €1 million in funding from the Office of Public Works to allow the completion of essential capital works that were commenced in early 2020, such as the sea-wall flood relief, means that Fota Wildlife Park can survive financially over the coming months.

Fota Wildlife Park, a not-for-profit organisation, is part of the Zoological Society of Ireland and is set on the scenic Fota Island in the heart of Cork Harbour. Fota Wildlife Park cares for 135 species of which 75 species at the Park face the danger of extinction in the wild.

Pre-Covid in 2019, Fota received 462,000 visitors and income from visitors amounted to €5.2 million annually. The overall impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was a loss of 18% in visitor numbers down to 385,000. Visitor income was also down 17% in 2020 compared to 2019. So far 2021 has seen only 3174 visitors compared to 41,623 in 2020 for the same period.

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