Full up: of tigers

So-called zoos are unnecessary and undesirable as they are just vanity projects with no benefits for conservation

Apparently we have, at least, three places registered as ‘zoos’, although I believe that calling these places zoos, is somewhat stretching the meaning of the word
Apparently we have, at least, three places registered as ‘zoos’, although I believe that calling these places zoos, is somewhat stretching the meaning of the word

According to information recently tabled in the House of Representatives, there are 127 big cats in Malta, including 64 tigers, 20 lions, and 24 pumas. There are also 11 leopards, three jaguars, two European lynx, two serval cats and one jungle cat.

42 of the tigers are held in zoos, seven are in private collections and another 13 are not yet registered. With regard to lions, there are three in zoos, seven in private collections and 10 unregistered, due to what – in civil service jargon – are called ‘pending issues’. Apart from so-called zoos, there are 14 individuals who are registered as keepers of ‘Dangerous Animals.’

Apparently we have, at least, three places registered as ‘zoos’, although I believe that calling these places zoos, is somewhat stretching the meaning of the word.

A dangerous animal is defined as any species of animal deemed dangerous by the Director Responsible for Veterinary Services because it may cause injury or damage to humans or otherwise. They can be kept in zoo establishments or in private collections conforming to the Owning and Keeping of Dangerous Animals Regulations.

These figures do not include cases of people illegally owning other ‘unregistered’ animals about which the relevant department is not aware.

Assuming Malta has a population of half a million, this translates into 128 tigers per million of population. Work it out for all other European countries, basing oneself on population statistics, and you will quickly understand the irresponsibility of allowing this mania to spread in Malta. If one works out the same comparison on the basis of number of tigers per square kilometres, the situation then becomes utterly mind-boggling!

Statistically, there are more tigers per square kilometre in Malta than there are in India.

Make the same exercise... adding the lions, pumas, leopards and others and it becomes beyond mind-boggling. Where tigers and these animals are concerned, Malta is indeed more than full up!

This is crazy, more so in a small overpopulated island that limits the number of pharmacies and the number of petrol stations but gives the green light to anyone owning a tiger, so long that legal provisions are observed!

The phenomenon of people privately owning large cats and other exotic animals always fascinated me: why do people want to own such animals?

Obviously, it is an ego problem. We got a glimpse of this mentality in a recent Facebook rant of the owner of an illegally built – subsequently sanctioned – ‘zoo’, actually a 40,000 square metre animal park in Siġġiewi.

He revealed his attitude towards people who do not agree with him on his pet subject –owning exotic animals, like lions and tigers. Interestingly, this ‘zoo’ owner was once reported as saying that owning exotic animals is his ‘hobby’.

The rant on Facebook was aimed against newly appointed Animal Welfare Commissioner, Alison Bezzina, and included a threat of his acting to force Bezzina out of her post if she makes a move against his zoo. He justified this threat by claiming Bezzina has a ‘conflict of interest’.

This conflict of interest consisted in Alson Bezzina commenting about the caging of wild animals. The ‘offending’ comment was that in her opinion, “the ideal situation would be that of having no zoos in the country” as “the only so-called benefit that zoo animals get from being handled and petted is that they get used to being around people and being handled by them.”

The ‘zoo’ owner even bragged of understanding animals – as opposed to Alison Bezzina not understanding and not caring about them. Perhaps Bezzina missed the benefit of the ego boost that the so-called Maltese ‘zoo’ owners get from owning these animals.

Subsequently, Animal Rights Minister Anton Refalo defended the government’s choice of the Animal Welfare Commissioner, ignoring the threat made by the ‘zoo’ owner to send the letters to some unidentified superman, in order to remove her from her post.

A spokesperson for the ministry said that the government is proud of having recently chosen to nominate Bezzina as this was a choice that reflected several things, including having appointments based on merit, the importance given to animal welfare, and the importance given for women to hold public office.

Subsequently this ‘zoo’ owner deleted his rant from Facebook and replaced it with a low tone ‘explanation’ about his anger being the result of those who persecute him for owning a ‘zoo’.

I, for one, believe that this ‘zoo’ owning concept in Malta, considering its size, is complete nonsense.

For once, I find myself in agreement with a statement made by ADPD to the effect that so called zoos are unnecessary and undesirable as they are just vanity projects with no benefits for conservation. APDD was reacting to the draft legal notice on the ‘Keeping of Wild Animals in Zoo Regulations’, insisting that the proposed regulations did not “strengthen the role of zoos in the conservation of biodiversity”, nor do they “protect the health and wellbeing of wild animals”.

The ADPD statement, however, ignored the fact that these animals were born in captivity, and they would not survive in the wild. The deputy chairperson of ADPD also remarked that the proposed subsidiary legislation departs from the point that it is acceptable to keep wild animals in zoos, particularly animals, such as large cats.

But is it? For me it is not.

Muscat’s tragedy

Last week, former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat appeared before the public inquiry into the state’s responsibility for the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Giving his evidence, Muscat confirmed that he is a very intelligent man and an excellent communicator. His initial statement and his replies to the questions he was asked recalled the old Muscat who mesmerised the majority into voting him into power.

It also recalled the feel-good atmosphere that he created with his positive thinking that was admired so much by many people.

No doubt, there were several cracks in Muscat’s testimony that could not be papered over; even so his attempts to do so were clever. These cracks have already been exposed in the media. But this is not my point.

The whole episode confirmed that Muscat could have been one of Malta’s great Prime Ministers – except for his astounding lack of ethics and moral fortitude that subsequently led to his shameful downfall.