The staff at Fota Wildlife Park are very happy this week as Five Ostrich chicks go on show to the public, the introduction is very significant following the sad termination of our flock in September 2009.
The chicks will bring a close to a very sad time for the wardens at the Park following the termination of our flock of 3 Ostrich in September 2009 after one of them was confirmed with Avian TB. Speaking about the good news park director Sean McKeown added "death of an animal is never easy and its even worst when it has be enforced as a way to prevent disease spreading to other animals in the park but now we can look forward to keeping a big flock of Ostrich once again as they have had a strong association with Fota since the early days".
The five chicks which are 10 weeks old have come in from Noah's Ark Zoo in Bristol as part of a breeding exchange which saw two Maras and a meerkat that was ousted from its clan go the opposite direction. The exchange is something the park is very active in added Mr McKeown, "in the last few months we have seen Giraffe's, Bison, Meerkats, Red Pandas and Ostrich come and go from the park as a result of our membership of BIAZA (British & Irish Association of Zoo & Aquaria) and EAZA (European Association of Zoo & Aquaria) as part of various breeding programmes".
The new arrivals bring the Ostrich numbers at the park up to 7 and they will live alongside giraffe, zebra, emu & scimitar horned oryx in the savannah area. Ostriches are the largest and heaviest birds in the world; they inhabit open land and are native to the Savannas and Sahel regions of Africa, both north and South of Africas' equatorial forest belt.
Ostrich eggs are the largest eggs in the animal kingdom; they can be 20 times the weight of an average sized chicken's egg. After an incubation period of 35-45 days the newly hatched chicks are usually cared for by the male bird, teaching them to feed and defending them from any predators.
The baby ostriches at the park will eventually grow to a height of 2.75m and weigh in excess of 150kg. They will also be able to run around the vast savannah area at the park with their long legs helping them run up to 50 kph for over 30 minutes at a time.
The famous five will be looking forward to this weekend as tourists from around the country are expected to flock to Fota Wildlife Park for the bank holiday weekend. The park has seen a big boost once again in visitor numbers in 2011 following the opening of its €4 million entrance complex in April by President of Ireland Mary McAleese.