Official announcements on the closing of a controversial Nicosia zoo caused confusion on Friday as state officials said they are already discussing the fate of its 3,000 animals, while the zoo owner insists that his park is still open for business.
State services met this week on the invitation of the president’s adviser on animal welfare and head of the Animal Party, Kyriacos Kyriacou, to discuss the management of the animals in Melios Pet Park, whose zoo operation licence expired on September 25 and was not renewed as it has no building permit. After this date, state services consider that the zoo ought to have closed down as it is illegal to continue operating.
Owner Menelaos Menelaou however, refuses to oblige and continues to operate the zoo and adjacent pet shop without any licences.
“I operate just like scores of other animal parks that had never had any building permit or zoo operation licence and which had never had a single problem with the veterinary services,” Menelaou told the Cyprus Mail.
He added that at the moment a case he filed at the Supreme Courta against the vet services is pending, because he feels they are the reason behind the town planning service not granting him a building permit.
“Because they are asking illegal things from the town service,” Menelaou said. He added that despite his pet shop, which is located in the same area as his zoo, having all permits, the vet services asked for it to be removed from the establishment in order for them to approve a number of cages he installed at the zoo.
“The labour ministry said that the cages were up to standard, but the vet services said they are not,” Menelaou said. He added that this was a deliberate move by the vet services so to prevent him from getting his building permit for the zoo operation licence.
Menelaou reiterated that all his animals have their papers and that vet services officials that visit the establishment regularly find no issues as regards animal welfare.
But Kyriacou and the head of the vet services beg to differ.
Kyriacou said that, according to the law, since the zoo is now considered closed, and since the owner did not inform authorities of his plans for the animals prior to the expiry of his licence, the vet services now have a say over the management of those animals.
“The first step will be to do an inventory of all the animals, around 3,000, and put them in categories, mammals, serpents, etc so that each state service will know what actions to take, which to send abroad, which to sell etc,” Kyriacou said.
He added that two more meetings would follow to coordinate the actions that are to be taken
At the same time, he criticized authorities for allowing things to come to this point.
“Heavy responsibilities burden everyone with huge mistakes of the past. Why was he given permission to import wild animals in the first place, or when he was asking for a zoo permit. All this happened because someone kept giving permission for these things,” Kyriacou said.
The head of the vet services, Hristodoulos Pipis, refuted Menelaou’s claims that they are out to get him.
He said that since Menelaou’s licence expired the vet services have given him many opportunities to cooperate with them, but that this cannot go on indefinitely. The vet services, he said, will send him a letter with instructions as to what to do with the animals.
The pending court case, he said, does not mean that procedures concerning the zoo have been frozen. He added that they have also told police that the public is to not have any access to the animals.
“If he fails to comply, we will have to interfere through justice,” Pipis said. He added that Menelaou is obliged by law to make arrangements for his animals at his own expense.