An average of three animals died every week during the 12-month period. Among them were two cheetahs, a male giraffe, six penguins, and 18 corncrakes — a bird in danger of national extinction.
In total, 159 animals died at the popular wildlife park in 2015 — more than double the number that perished during the same period at Dublin Zoo, where the deaths of 68 animals were recorded.
The revelation follows reports earlier this month that a zoo in Cumbria, England, was refused a new licence after 486 of its animals died during a four-year period, representing a death rate of around 12%.
Inventory records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the 159 animals that died at Fota Wildlife Park in 2015 represented 12.1% of its animal population.
The animals that died at the wildlife park included two male ostriches, two black swans, four European bison, and four axolotls – a Mexican ‘walking fish’ that is critically endangered and possibly extinct in the wild.
A male scimitar-horned oryx, a species of antelope that has been extinct in the wild for almost 20 years, was also among the dead animals.
Six Humboldt penguins — considered “vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) — died in 2015.
There are fewer than 12,000 of the penguins left in the wild due to climate change and overfishing.
A male lar gibbon — an endangered species of ape — was also among the dead animals. Two lion-tailed macaques — an endangered species of monkey — also died at the wildlife park.
A spokesperson for Fota Wildlife Park said that all of their animals enjoy the best possible standard of husbandry and welfare, and all deaths are recorded in strict accordance with licencing requirements.
“Unfortunately, providing the best possible care does not prevent the natural deaths of animals as they reach the end of their life expectancy, and some animal species have very short lifespans,” she said.
“Most of the deaths recorded died of natural causes such as old age, indeed some were among the oldest recorded Humboldt penguins and ring-tailed Lemurs, some of these were resident since the park opened in 1983.
“A few of the deaths were newborn that didn’t survive, a common occurrence in the wild also. Mink, released into the wild, caused the deaths of some of the waterfowl.”
The spokesperson said Fota Wildlife Park, which attracted more than 436,000 visitors in 2015, had played a part in reintroducing a number of endangered species to the wild; and continues to support a number of international conservation programmes.