FOTA Wildlife Park celebrated the purr-fect autumn boost with the birth of five new Northern Cheetah cubs.
he five cubs – three females and two males – were born to mother Grainne and father Archie on August 10.
A total of 238 cheetahs have now been born at Fota Wildlife Park since 1984.
The Northern cheetah subspecies is considered endangered by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as there are less than 800 cats left in the wild.
Grainne, who was born at the east Cork park, now spends several hours a day playing with her cubs on Cheetah Hill in Fota.
It is Grainne’s second litter with three cubs delivered on St Patrick’s Day last year.
Proud dad Archie is a first-time father despite being 12 years old.
He arrived at Fota from a zoological facility in Dubai.
Head ranger Julien Fonteneau said it was a huge boost not just to Fota but also to the global conservation effort for cheetahs.
“We are delighted to announce the birth of five Northern Cheetah cubs. As a conservation charity and a zoological intuition, the continued participation and success in European
Endangered Species breeding programmes (EEP) is very important,” he said.
“With each year, wild cheetah populations are coming under greater threat of extinction from habitat destruction and human persecution.”
“These births are a great way to educate the public about the collaborative work that zoos do under the auspices of EAZA breeding programmes (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria) to conserve the genetic diversity of endangered and vulnerable species, like the cheetah.”
Fota takes great pride in its cheetah breeding programme and the speedy cat is now the logo of the award-winning east Cork facility.
Having five cubs in a single litter is quite an achievement for Fota.
“Personally this is my first time witnessing the birth of such a big litter. Five cubs are certainly very rare. I’m thrilled to say that they all are thriving.”
Fota is now running a competition at www.fotawildlife.ie/news to pick names for the new cubs with conservation passes for the lucky winners.
Not only is the cheetah the fastest land animal in the world today, but the species has also been in existence for between 3.5 and four million years – making it the oldest of Earth’s big cat living species.
In 1900 there were more than 100,000 cheetahs throughout Africa and Asia.
However, by 1975 this number had decreased to less than 20,000.
Open to the public since June 1983, Fota Wildlife Park is a conservation and education charity.
It annually attracts 460,000 visitors but, like other similar facilities, was badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
It costs €380,000 to run Fota every month.
The 100 acre park ranks as one of the world’s leading breeding centres for endangered animals and boasts 135 different species.
A not-for-profit charity, Fota critically depends on its gate receipts which deliver around 95pc of the annual park income.
Fota has an annual turnover of around €6m with more than 150 staff at peak summer operations.