By Evie Andreou
THE proposed creation of a crocodile park got short shrift at the House environment committee yesterday as deputies and local authorities found the whole idea suspicious.
The application submitted recently to the agriculture ministry by a Cypriot-Israeli joint venture sees the importation of around 1,000 Nile crocodiles for a theme park in Psematismenos village in the Larnaca district.
The crocodiles are to come from an Israeli farm that was closed down after 70 of the crocodiles escaped, causing a panic.
Larnaca local authority officials and environmentalists at the House yesterday said that 1,000 crocodiles was way too much for a theme park and suspected the beginning of a breeding industry leading to the slaughter of the protected animals for the production of crocodile-skin items.
“It is obvious that it is about a breeding farm, that due to its size, will turn into a processing company,” Greens MP Giorgos Perdikis said.
A representative of non-governmental-organisation Terra Cypria said the application for a theme park was a Trojan horse aiming to facilitate the trade of crocodile products in the EU.
Olympia Stylianou, permanent secretary of the agriculture ministry said the application concerned a theme park and “not a slaughter house”. She also said that the 70 crocodiles that escaped the farm in Israel were hatchlings.
Most of the committee members expressed their concerns over the large number of the crocodiles involved and the dangers they posed to biodiversity and the environment, the worry about safety issues.
Environment Commissioner Ioanna Panayiotou, said Nile crocodiles were a protected species and that it was Cyprus’ duty under EU law to protect it. She said that this number of crocodiles is far too big for a small place like Cyprus and that the farm posed a threat to the environment.
The representative of the interior ministry said that the farm in Israel had its licence revoked because the Israeli authorities ruled that it was impossible to keep the crocodiles from escaping. He also said that the ministry was examining the reasons the company, which currently has 3,500 crocodiles, wants to transfer 1,000 of them to Cyprus.
He also said the proposed location was only 200 metres from an inhabited area.
“Not even a goat farm is allowed at this distance,” he said.
Perdikis said that the state’s vet services admitted that they did not posses the expertise to monitor crocodiles, not to mention how they would be fed and watered.
He said he could not understand what had possessed Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis to even entertain the idea in the first place, given that there was so much opposition on the ground.
Chairman of the environment committee Adamos Adamou said they expected answers from the agriculture ministry.
The Israeli park opened in 1987, but was closed in 2011 after the escape incident. Israel also banned the breeding of crocodiles for commercial purposes after the incident.