IN NEWS ON 28TH JUN 2024

Official Launch of Education, Conservation & Research Centre

Today Fota Wildlife Park’s new sustainably built Education, Conservation and Research Centre (ECRC) was officially opened by Michael McGrath, TD, Kieran O’Donnell, TD the Minister of State for the Office of Public Works, and the Minister of State for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, TD.

The Education, Conservation and Research Centre, “Understanding Our Sustainable Future” was developed at a cost of €5.5 million and was co funded by the Government of Ireland via the Office of the Public Works and Fota Wildlife Park (€2 million from the Office of Public Works and €3.5 million from Fota Wildlife Park).

Michael McGrath, TD said “I am delighted to be present to mark the official opening of Fota Wildlife Park’s Education, Conservation and Research Centre. This is a project for which the Government was pleased to provide significant financial support and represents the latest stage in Fota Wildlife Park’s evolution since its opening in 1983.

I would like to congratulate Director Sean McKeown, the members of the board and all who have been involved in this complex project which is a significant landmark as part of delivering the Fota 2030 vision.

Fota Wildlife Park is a much-loved institution in Cork, evoking happy memories for tens of thousands of people who have visited with family, friends and school groups over the years. This development will provide the chance for undergraduate and postgraduate students to avail of formal and informal educational and research opportunities in a state-of-the-art location.”

Minister of State for the Office of Public Works, Kieran O’Donnell, TD said:

“As Minister for the Office of Public Works, it is a pleasure to participate in the official opening of Fota Wildlife Park’s new Education, Conservation and Research Centre (ECRC). I am delighted that Government funding via the OPW has enabled the progression of several important infrastructure projects and contributed to the development of this magnificent centre. This sustainable, eco-friendly complex will be an invaluable addition to Fota Wildlife Park. It will facilitate the expansion of educational and research opportunities in the field of biodiversity and conservation. I wish to congratulate and commend Fota Wildlife Director Sean McKeown, Board Chair,  Jim Woulfe and all involved in advancing the project.

Minister of State for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, welcomed the new Centre:

“There has been fantastic collaboration between NPWS and Fota Wildlife Park in recent years on tackling some of our most challenging conservation concerns, notably those of the Curlew, Corncrake and Natterjack Toad. I’ve been privileged to witness these efforts first hand and I’m certain that the new Education, Conservation and Research Centre will play a vital role in helping us to protect these endangered species in the years to come.”

The completion of this sustainably built, passive design development underscores Fota Wildlife Park’s 40th anniversary commitment to being a leading contributor to the conservation of national and global biodiversity through education, research, the breeding of endangered species and by actively supporting conservation projects worldwide.

Jim Woulfe, Chairman of Board said, “Today’s event is hugely significant for Fota Wildlife Park as we unveil the new Education, Conservation and Research Centre, the largest capital investment project in Fota’s history. On behalf of the Board, I convey our sincere gratitude to the architects; engineers and the construction team whose dedication and expertise brought this project to fruition. We are especially grateful to the Government for their excellent support and significant contribution. We compliment the exceptional leadership of Fota Wildlife Park’s Director, Sean McKeown, whose adept management ensured the project was completed on time and within budget. The Board are incredibly proud of what has been accomplished in the ECRC.”

The new ECRC features a 265-seater auditorium, an atrium, three state of the art classrooms, and a dedicated research centre which will provide significant opportunities to undergraduate and postgraduate students in University College Cork and national and international third level institutions.

Sean McKeown, Director of Fota Wildlife Park said, “I am delighted to introduce the new Education, Conservation and Research Centre, which is the next step in Fota Wildlife Park’s ambitious, 10-year strategic plan ‘Fota 2030 Vision’, to be one of Europe’s top zoological institutions in terms of our three pillar values – Conservation, Education and Research. I am thrilled to welcome Michael McGrath, TD, Minister Kieran O’Donnell for the Office of Public Works and Minister Malcolm Noonan for Nature and Heritage who are officiating the opening today. I want to sincerely express our deepest gratitude to the support and financial contribution of the Government of Ireland via the OPW. Without their support, the construction of this new complex would have remained a distant dream. Here, we place education, conservation, and research at the heart of our endeavours, weaving them into the very fabric of our mission, and solidifying their significance in our collective journey.”

This year more than 20,000 students will study at the Education, Conservation and Research Centre, making Fota Wildlife Park Munster’s largest provider of outdoor education. The new ECRC will enable Fota Wildlife Park to expand its formal and informal educational and research opportunities for students. The ECRC also provides Fota Wildlife Park with a large indoor space to host lectures, conferences, and corporate events.

Lynda McSweeney, Head of Education said, “This remarkable milestone stands as a testament to Fota Wildlife Park’s unwavering commitment to conservation, education and research, by fostering a love for learning and a respect for our environment. With the capacity to welcome up to 35,000 students annually, this centre is not just a building; it is a beacon of sustainability that ensures that we are leading by example in the pursuit of nurturing young minds while preserving the biodiversity of our beautiful planet for future generations.”

Sustainability is at the forefront of the centre’s design and its day-to-day operations. Solar panels and batteries ensure it can produce as much energy as it needs, rainwater harvesting provides 80% of the required water and a heat recovery ventilation system and extensive insulation in the external walls significantly reduce the energy requirements of the ECRC complex.

Recycled and reusable products have been used throughout the construction of the Education, Conservation and Research Centre and include timber parquet flooring in the auditorium which is made from recycled Midleton Distillery Whiskey Barrels.

The building is equipped with bat-friendly lighting, and the entrance walls are clad with Robinia timber, providing habitats for native birds and bats. Additionally, the garden has been landscaped with native plant species that are under threat of extinction in Ireland.

The new Education, Conservation, and Research Centre, “Understanding our Sustainable Future,” has welcomed thousands of students from primary, secondary, and higher education levels. The ECRC has hosted conferences, business functions, and workshops, such as the Pure Cork Waste Not, Want Not event, a food sustainability conference in collaboration with Cork City Council and Cork County Council, and a business networking and workshop event, Sustainability Pathways run by Cobh and Harbour Chamber in association with Mallow Chamber.

The new Education, Conservation, and Research Centre is available for booking, contact [email protected] for availability and further details.