Giraffes, Rhinos, & Penguins, Oh My!

We visited Fota Wildlife Park in County Cork on Friday and it…was…amazing!  Our cousin Gearoid helped arrange the tour for us and it was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

Fota is a wildlife conservation park that collaborates with other parks in Europe and beyond to help conserve, protect, and advocate for wildlife. The ultimate goal at Fota is to help increase animal populations and then reintroduce them back into the wild. So for instance we learned that Fota has the “stud book” for the world’s cheetahs…cheetahs from around the world are tracked, monitored, and strategically placed in wildlife parks to help support breeding efforts. …We had a wonderful tour guide, Willie, who explained it to us and while I didn’t catch all of it (it was new to me), it was informing to learn that such efforts are afoot to help grow animal populations that might otherwise be at risk. And that there is global coordination among zoological/animal experts.

Another interesting thing: the rhinoceros house was like Fort Knox; because the rhino horns are worth so much on the black market, the European Union mandated security included dozens of CCTV cameras and censored entrance/exit tech.

All that being said …. From a purely selfish, “omigod I can’t believe we are here and get to do this” point of view: it was like being a kid again to experience Fota via private tour. Never in a million years did any of us imagine we’d have our first (and possibly only) experience feeding giraffes, rhinoceroses, penguins, and monkeys … all in one spot in Ireland. It was fantastic.

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The giraffes were my favorite part of the visit. We were able to go inside the visitor Pen and feed them from a bucket. They are majestic animals, so tall and lean, and the way they swoop their heads up and down to get a bit of food was unlike anything I had ever experienced. They are just massive creatures. They didn’t seem to mind us visitors, so as the pictures show they shoved their giant heads into the feed buckets, gently pushing us out of the way as they did so. They were adorable and intimidating at the same time….it was a wonderful mix of emotions all at once and we were all a bit bowled over…we left the giraffe pen like a group of school kids, absolutely astonished at what had just happened!

Our tour guide Willie was absolutely wonderful and all the kids had a fantastic time as the pictures show. Indira and Arjun had a great time too 😁

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