By Bejay Browne
The owner of Paphos Zoo on Tuesday denied allegations by the Green Party that he had hit a protesting animal activist with a chair on Sunday.
The activist was removed by police from his protest point at the entrance to the zoo, which was followed by Green Party statement on Monday condemning the alleged attack with a chair.
But zoo owner Christos Christoforou denied the claims, saying the man did get a small scratch in a scuffle between the pair, as he attempted to remove him from a chair at the entrance to the zoo.
Christoforou also noted that the protest was carried out on private property which is illegal and amounted to trespassing.
“I understand that the man is a Cypriot from Nicosia; he put a chair close to the ticket entrance on private property and opened boxes full of paper and was writing things on them such as, animals need to be free and free the elephants. He was trying to give them to people. I called the police immediately but they took some time to come.”
In the meantime, Christoforou said the situation resulted in a scuffle as he tried to remove the man from the chair, who resisted, and that is how he got the scratch.
The two elephants arrived in Cyprus amid controversy just over a week ago and Christoforou said the two, four-year old Bono Rani and five-year old Shova Rani were gifted to the zoo (now classed as a zoo institute) by the government of Bangladesh. They were accompanied by their keeper and a veterinarian.
Christoforou said that private buyers are no longer able to buy and sell elephants and that a number of regulations and stipulations are in place for their protection. He said that this can now only occur between governments or zoo institutes.
Ahead of their arrival, The Animal Party and the Green Party issued separate announcements asking the authorities to revoke any licences obtained for the arrival of the animals and questioned whether all measures were taken to ensure their living conditions were up to standards.
However state authorities stressed that Paphos Zoo has obtained all licences for the two young elephants and expressed their satisfaction with the enclosure.
Christoforou said: “I don’t think these people understand that the animals we have were bred in captivity, they would die if they were put in the wild. The animals here are all loved, well cared for and looked after and we are concentrating on getting the elephants used to their new space and settling them in correctly.”
A release on Monday by the Green party said: “The young activist went to the zoo on Sunday to start a hunger strike to protest against the introduction and detention of two small elephants.”
It went on to say that the party “denounces the wanton assault and causing actual bodily harm to a peaceful protester” and that “- according to the complaint of the activist – the owner of the zoo attacked him, hitting him with a chair and causing him injury.”
But Christoforou stressed that this isn’t what happened at all, and that there were witnesses to his version of events.
“He was making calls at the time and getting advice. I overheard him say that -it’s my mistake to be on private property, I will say he hit me and go to hospital.”
Christoforou said that the police arrived and took the man away.
A police spokesman said: “Peyia police received a complaint from the zoo owner on Sunday that a man was harassing people at the zoo and in turn a man has complained that the owner attacked him. Peyia police are investigating.”