Illegal Montekristo zoo hosted 36 state school visits in five years

Last month the unlicensed zoo was closed down by the owners, the Polidano group, after a tiger being walked by its keepers grievously injured a three-year-old boy.

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Jurgen Balzan
10 December 2015, 7:47am
The illegal zoo at the Montekristo estate has hosted 36 state school visits since 2011, the education ministry confirmed. 

In reply to MaltaToday’s questions, the ministry said that so far this year no outings have been organised at the zoo, which was recently closed down after a child was pawed and badly injured by a tiger.

In the 2013/14 scholastic year pupils from 24 state schools visited the zoo, part of a complex described by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) as “Malta’s largest illegal development”. Last year the number of visits went down to five. 

In 2011/12 four schools orgainsed a visit at Montekristo and another three visits took place in the following scholastic year. 

Last month the unlicensed zoo was closed down by the owners, the Polidano group, after a tiger being walked by its keepers grievously injured a three-year-old boy.

The ministry also said it has no collaboration with the Montekristo Estate after being asked why a discount coupon for children’s parties at Montekristo appeared in a diary distributed in primary schools. 

“It is incorrect to state that the Ministry or schools received any contribution from Montekristo for advertising or any other reason,” the ministry said. 

The diary, designed and produced by Lion Group Malta, includes an introductory message by education minister Evarist Bartolo.  

Confirming that the diary was produced by a third-party private publisher, the ministry said it agreed to allow its distribution on the basis that the content was age-appropriate. 

The zoo, part of the Montekristo Estates, is sited at the Hal-Farrug grounds of the construction group, most of which is riddled with enforcement notices issued by the MEPA. 

Charges had been filed against Charles Polidano, known as Ic-Caqnu, over alleged infringements at the zoo, including for breaches of the Animal Welfare Act. In January, home affairs minister Carmelo Abela said the police would be taking steps against Polidano over infringements at the zoo in Montekristo.

A few months after coming into office, Joseph Muscat’s government made a huge show of force when it sent bulldozers, armed police and the army to pull down illegalities at Hal-Farrug, but the show of force proved to be nothing but a farce, as the enforcement action was stopped by a court prohibitory injunction.  

In July, MEPA was prevented from stopping a trade fair from taking place on Polidano’s illegal premises. Despite the authority’s refusal to grant a permit, the fair went ahead as planned and was presided by the President of the Republic. 

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Jurgen Balzan joined MaltaToday in 2011, specialising in politics, foreig...