Fota Wildlife Park, part of the Zoological Society of Ireland, is located on 100 acres at Fota Island 10km east of Cork City and has an annual attendance of 440,000 visitors. It is currently the second largest visitor attraction in Ireland outside of Leinster.
Fota Wildlife Park’s vision is to inspire people to understand and conserve the biodiversity of our natural world. The Park’s core values of conservation, education, research and entertainment have ensured that we are uniquely placed to foster greater public understanding of the threats to plant and animal habitats and decreasing global biodiversity. Fota Wildlife Park has made considerable investment in the past 5 years upgrading its infrastructure and is currently near completion of an additional 27 acres development that focuses on Asian animals and plants.
Fota is a non-profit organisation, limited by guarantee, and is also a registered charity. It is completely self-financing, relying entirely on gate receipts and membership fees for its income, and any financial surpluses generated are reinvested in order improve infrastructure and promote the company’s core objectives of conservation, education and research.
Fota Island was the private home of the Smith-Barry family for nearly 800 years until the estate was sold to University College Cork (UCC) in 1975. Family members were descendants of Philip de Barry, who arrived in Ireland from Wales as part of the Norman invasion (1160s-1170s). De Barry took up residence in Cork after being granted lands across the county, including Fota Island.
The family initially settled in Barryscourt Castle near Carrigtwohill before moving to Castlelyons, where they also held extensive properties. Fota House was originally a two-storey hunting lodge, used as a base for fishing, shooting and yachting, but the family made it their primary residence during the 1820s after architect Sir Richard Morrison was commissioned to create the current mansion.
The estate was sold to UCC following the death of Mrs Dorothy Elizabeth Bell, the last of the Smith-Barrys. Fota House is now managed by the Irish Heritage Trust, while the gardens and arboretum are under the joint care of the Trust and Office of Public Works (OPW). The five-star Fota Island Resort is located nearby and its championship-standard golf course hosted the Irish Open in 2001 and 2002. For more, see www.visitfota.com.