“We understand their requirements,” Fota Wildlife Park Director Sean McKeown explained. “They can be slightly fussy animals and a male might not get on well with a certain female for instance. You have to be able to recognise the signs and interpret a particular cat’s behaviour properly.”
The Park is capable of caring for up to 15 breeding Cheetahs at any one time and is now home to Ireland’s first Cheetah Run. Females are kept separately on their own – in a similar manner to how they live in the wild – and are then mixed through other groups to help stimulate breeding at appropriate times.
“It’s really important to pass on any knowledge that is built up in a facility. We change how we keep animals over time but a lot of the basics stay the same. What we know about species is always expanding and gaining practical experience in animal care is almost always worth more than reading 100 books.”
A Simitar-horned Oryx born in the Park in 2003 has since been re-introduced into a National Park in Tunisia and is now the dominant bull of a growing group of animals. European Bison calves have also been sent to National Parks in Poland, while a White-tailed Sea Eagle born in Cork has been released near the Golan Heights in the Middle East.