Tiger and baby rhino settle in to life in Fota's €6m Asian sanctuary
AN IRISH wildlife park can celebrated its status as one of the world's top breeding grounds for endangered species thanks to a high-tech new €6m Asian Sanctuary.
Fota Wildlife Park yesterday opened its largest single extension since the Co Cork park was launched in 1983.
Defence Minister Simon Coveney officially opened the new annex, which will also copper-fasten Fota's standing as one of the top ten tourist attractions in Ireland.
Fota is now the most popular visitor attraction in Cork and expects to confirm record numbers this season.
The Asian Sanctuary, first proposed a decade ago, will see the park expand its breeding programme for endangered species to include such exotic animals as Sumatran tigers and the Indian rhino.
The east Cork park already boasts the most successful African cheetah and Rothschild giraffe breeding programmes on the planet.
Mr Coveney said Fota has been an incredible success story since it first opened its doors.
"It is a wonderful asset for Cork and for Ireland and generations of Irish children will continue to grow up with a special place in their hearts for Fota," he said.
Fota's new Indian rhino is already proving a huge attraction this season with the park on course to confirm record visitor numbers.
The one-and-a-half tonne male rhino is called Jamil, which means handsome or beautiful in the north Indian dialect.
The Asian Sanctuary has already seen two endangered Sumatran tigers arrive while Jamil will now prove central to arguably the park's most ambitious breeding programme in its 32-year history.
"We are delighted that Jamil is on public display and he will shortly be joined by two further rhinos next autumn," Fota director Sean McKeown said.
Jamil is a two-and-half-year-old male who arrived from Whipsnade Zoo outside London.
His species is famous for the armour-like plates formed by its skin.
There are now just five rhino species left on the planet, all of which are endangered.