VIDEO: Jamil the giant to draw crowds to Fota

A lumbering giant will today be unveiled as the newest attraction at Cork’s top tourist draw.

VIDEO: Jamil the giant to draw crowds to Fota

Coming in at a weight of one tonne, Jamil the Indian Rhino will certainly be the biggest summer arrival to the Rebel County, and his arrival marks the second phase of Fota Wildlife Park’s ambitious Asian Sanctuary development.

The Indian rhinoceros has only one horn and is an endangered species, but Fota Wildlife Park director Sean McKeown said that they plan to help the conservation effort by bringing more of the animal to Cork for breeding.

“He’ll reach maturity at around six or seven years old, so he will be fully grown at around five or six years old, and will be mature for breeding at around six,” said Mr McKeown. “He’ll almost double in size. A male Indian rhino will reach around 1,800 kilos — just under two tonnes.”

Jamil will be on show in a purpose-built rhino enclosure, with a raised walkway allowing visitors to cross an artificial pond that will give the water-loving animal plenty of room to roam.

“He’s quite a placid individual, but if he’s frightened or anything he can charge and would be dangerous – that’s why the structures are built in this way,” said Mr McKeown said.

Fota Wildlife Park has invested €1.6m in the latest phase of the Asian Sanctuary, which follows a €2m investment in the first phase which saw the introduction of Sumatran tigers last summer.

Mr McKeown said further expansion of the park will depend on the income it can generate, as the attraction has run largely without government funding or grants.

“We have to develop it piecemeal as at this rate, we’re pretty much out of funds,” he said. “This will be last section for what might be a year or two, and it will depend on the income we get from the gate or possible government support.

“We have had little State support, unlike Dublin Zoo, where they have had large investment over the years. Our only government support in recent years was SECAD who gave us a €200,000 grant for the development of our tropical house and reptile centre.”

Jamil has been sent to Fota on breeding loan from Whipsnade Zoo in Britain, and will be joined by two more rhinos in the autumn. The Indian, or great one-horned, rhinoceros has a thick, layered, armour-like skin and compensates for its poor eyesight with a well-developed sense of hearing and smell.

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