Environment and Resources Authority says no to illegal Rabat zoo

The owners of the zoo want to have four cages permitted, but the ERA says “retroactive sanctioning” would be a reward for the abusive change from a cow-breeding farm into an exotic animal farm

The Environment and Resources Authority has described a proposal to regularize the illegally-developed Serengeti Animal Park along Dingli road in Rabat as a flagrant example of development carried out in the absence of any “environmental considerations whatsoever” which has resulted in “illegal commitments and excessive land-take at the expense of the countryside”.

The owners of the zoo want to have four cages regularized: one cage is listed as being able to hold eight tigers, another to hold three lions, another for three jaguars and one for three leopards.

The ERA has insisted that the applicant who has applied for a change-of-use from a cow-breeding farm to an exotic animal farm should not be rewarded through “retroactive sanctioning”.

In a report assessing this application, the ERA contends that the various cages, stores, paving and other scattered structures have committed the whole site which is approximately 2,400 sq.m in size. “Most of the area has been cleared from soil and replaced with hard landscaping and beaten earth.”

In 2017 the PA regularized “extensive works” on an adjacent site belonging to zoo owner Brian Azzopardi despite the ERA’s recommendation for refusal. The works included extensive paving around a dwelling originally approved in 2007.

In a separate report the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage has also objected to the proposed development application which is resulting in “the incremental degradation of an archaeologically sensitive area”.

The cultural heritage watchdog alerted the Planning Authority to the presence of extensive caves located beneath the animal park, which is accessible from an adjacent property belonging to the same owner.

The Superintendence also expressed its concern that un-monitored works had already been carried out on archeologically sensitive site. “Any unreported accidental discoveries made during unmonitored works are to the detriment of the archaeological record and limit our understanding of features forming part of the cultural landscape.”