By Jean Christou
APPEALS and petitions have started after a report at the weekend that an Israeli and Cypriot venture was attempting to open a crocodile park in Psematismenos village in the Larnaca district.
In addition to opposition from the Animal Party, an online petition has been launched calling on the authorities to turn down the proposal.
According to reports in Phileleftheros on Sunday, representatives for the venture had already met Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis and that it was being considered. He reportedly told the veterinary services to carry out a safety study and look at what would be needed legislatively.
The proposal involves bringing 1,000 Nile crocodiles from Israel, from a similar park that was closed down after dozens of crocodiles escaped.
The reptile is a protected species so they cannot be put down. Currently the creatures are being cared for by a handful of people.
The Israeli park opened in 1987, but in 2011 around 70 of the crocodiles escaped and caused a mass panic, which has led to serious concerns about such a park operating in Cyprus. Israel also banned the breeding of crocodiles for commercial purposes after the incident.
The online petition – which had over 300 signatures by Wednesday afternoon – was posted by Anna-Maria Papakyriacou, a Cypriot living in the Czech Republic who said: “If the Czech Republic had trouble with 200 crocodiles in their farm in Moravia, what makes Cyprus so confident they can control 1,000 on an island? If 70 crocodiles managed to escape the Israeli park, what guarantees are there that they will not escape here?”
It added that Nile crocodiles, as a protected species, require specific transfer measures, farming measures and exportation measures. It is also very dangerous and kills more humans each year worldwide than all other crocodile species combined.
Also, Nile crocodiles can produce up to 60 young on average each year, and since they cannot be culled, the petition asks how the Cypriot authorities think they can deal with them. They also eat the equivalent of a small animal a day and grow to around five metres long.
If any were to get loose they would wreak havoc on the island’s wildlife, according to Animal Party chief Kyriacos Kyriacou. He said they planned to write to the president about the issue. “Israel’s theme park is closed and they want to get rid of the crocodiles and they’re looking to dump them here because it is against the law to slaughter the animals,” he said on Wednesday. “Cyprus is not a dumping ground.”
“What are we going to do with 1,000 crocodiles in Cyprus; start an industry in contradiction with animal welfare laws? Cyprus does not have the legislative framework to control a crocodile theme park,” Kyriacou added.