Sarah Noonan, TY student at St Mary’s Secondary School, Newport, feeding Giraffe Fada at Fota Wild Life.

Working with the wildlife at Fota

Two second level students have had one of the most unusual experiences of their life at second level, living and working with the wildlife at Fota Island for a week.

TY students at St Mary's Secondary School, Newport, Sarah Noonan and Megan Gannon were lucky enough to undertake their week work experience in the 100-acre Fota Wildlife Park, near Carrigtwohill, Co Cork.

After an interesting experience, Sarah Noonan recalled the moments which she will remember from the visit.

For the first day she was placed in carnivores, which included animals such as lions and tigers but also the birds, red pandas and animals inside the Tropics and Madagascar House.

“My first task was to feed cheetahs. I would run in and out of stalls with the food next to the cheetahs and they would be brought in one at a time until they were all locked up,” she recalled.

Then it was time to prepare food for and feed the red pandas and next the penguins learning their names and characteristics/personalities. The birds were next to be fed as well as the other free roaming animals.

The next day included dealing with animals such as lemurs and monkeys and getting to know such as the mangabeys, spider monkeys, drills, howler monkeys, black and white ruffed lemurs and ring tailed lemurs and so on.

“My favourite part of the day was getting to visit saki monkeys and feed them nuts out of my hands as well as getting to see the baby spider monkey up close. I most enjoyed chatting with the ranger I was paired with for most of my day as she was incredibly friendly and gave me amazing advice about her career and also many facts on primates,” she recalled.

After that it was the opportunity to get to know more about the horse family/other animals such as rhinos, giraffes, oryx, lechwe and so on.

“This section is by far the most physical. The first part of the day was spent in the giraffe house. I was mucking out the zebra stable and taking down old branches from the giraffe enclosure.

“You have to be cautious in the giraffe house as the ostriches and zebras to one side and giraffes are on the other, and you cannot stand too close to either side in case of frightening any of the animals as zebras can startle extremely easily.

“The last part of my day I was with the rhinos. I think that this was my favourite part of the park to be. I got to hand feed all of the rhinos including the two males Shusto and Jamil, the baby Jai and his mother Maya,” she recollected.

The next day was extremely busy moving animals to other parks as well as lechwe deer and a beautiful tiger called Jambe.

“I was present for the tigers moving but for obvious safety reasons I had to step back for the majority of the moves - I think some of the animals were going to France,” she said.

Some of the animals required medication, which was one of her favourite part of their week's experience getting close to the rhinos and also getting to give the rhinos commands and learning how they train them.

“I definitely will not miss waking up at 6am and rushing for the 7.30 am train from Cobh, but I will miss the park, the staff and all of the fun I had there. I would highly recommend doing a week of work experience at Fota Wildlife if you ever get the chance as it is a once in a lifetime experience,” she added. “Everyone there was extremely friendly and had so much advice about the best thing to do if I was looking to pursue a career in this field.”