A GoFundMe page launched in support of Fota Wildlife Park has already raised close to €4,000 in donations since it was set up 2 days ago.
Closed for several of the past few months, Fota Wildlife Park in Co Cork reopened briefly while restrictions allowed. However, with level five restrictions reintroduced in the days following Christmas, the park has been shut since early January, and like many other businesses and tourist attractions, has spent the entirety of 2021 in lockdown.
Admitting that permanent closure is a very real concern without constant visitor income, Director of Fota Wildlife Park Sean McKeown said that he is still hopeful the park will be back open by the end of the month.
Speaking to RTÉ recently, he reassured the public that the animals are "doing well" in spite of everything.
"With no people in here, it's a bit deserted in a way but the animals are fine, doing well - they're well looked after. It's coming into a season, you know, spring brings a new life to the place, and that engenders a bit of a greater atmosphere with the staff etc. We just can't wait to be open and welcoming people in."
Questioned what will happen if they're not allowed to reopen, McKeown later added:
"Well if we don't open before, if we don't open before September for instance, then we face the real prospect of closure.
"So, that's something we don't want to happen and that's why we're eagerly awaiting to get open and to have visitors in here. The earlier that we open, the better chance of survival we have."
One of the country's most popular visitor attractions, government announced a huge monetary boost for the park back in December, confirming that €1million would be made available to Fota Wildlife Park. However, with monthly maintenance fees (food and vet bills) coming in at €40,000 each month, that money will only last so long.
Keen to keep the park afloat until such time that they can reopen, local woman Chelsea Sheehan has since launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the park, with almost €4,000 in donations rolling in within a two-day period.
Explaining that she is "absolutely heartbroken" to learn that permanent closure could be a real possibility, Chelsea claimed that Fota is home to many of her fondest memories.
"Fota has always been a family orientated day out and never fails to put a smile on my face and since I haven't seen any fundraisers for this cause, I am setting up one in hopes to help in some way, every little helps right?"