Updated | Montekristo zoo closed after tiger grievously injures child • AD decry Polidano’s ‘favourable’ treatment

Unlicensed Montekristo Zoo shuts down with immediate effect after three-year-old boy was grievously injured when tiger on a leash lashed out at the child • Alternattiva Demokratika says country is being run by unlicensed business people

A tiger at the unlicensed Montekristo injured a three-year-old boy after lashing out at the child
A tiger at the unlicensed Montekristo injured a three-year-old boy after lashing out at the child

The unlicensed Montekristo Zoo has been closed down by its owners today after a tiger grievously injured a three-year-old boy on Saturday.

“Due to the current unforeseen circumstances the management has decided to close the animal park at Montekristo with immediate effect,” Jean Paul Sammut, a director at Montekristo Estate, said today.

The incident occurred yesterday at around 4:30om at the Montekristo Estate’s Zoo, which in itself an unlicensed zoo that has been allowed to operate. The boy was hospitalised and certified to be suffering from grievous injuries but was not in danger of dying.

Reports said the child suffered lacerations to his face and will probably need plastic surgery.

READ Boy, 3, hospitalised after Montekristo zoo tiger lashes out at him

Police said the boy was with a 56-year-old man from Zabbar at the time of the incident. Witnesses on site told MaltaToday that the child was injured after the tiger grabbed the child and appeared to have locked him in a hug. The tiger’s handler then started hitting the animal until the boy was released from its grip.

Jean Paul Sammut, the CEO of the Montekristo Estate, said the tiger was being walked by two handlers, and was lying on the floor at the time of the incident. “At one point the boy moved towards the tiger, and the tiger wrapped her paws around the boy consequently hitting the boy with its nail [sic] in the face. At no point did the tiger bite the boy or any of the sort took place.”

“The tiger did not attack but tried to play. It would be against the interest of the animals and the tiger if they are put down for hurting someone involuntary when trying to play and accidentally hit someone with its claws. However additional precautions will be taken,” Sammut said.

The zoo, part of the Montekristo Estates owned by Polidano Group, is sited at the Hal-Farrug grounds of the construction group, most of which is riddled with enforcement notices from the Malta Environment and Planning Authority. Charges had been filed against Charles Polidano, known as Ic-Caqnu, over alleged infringements at the zoo, including breaches of the Animal Welfare Act. In January, home affairs minister Carmelo Abela said the police will be taking steps against construction magnate Charles Polidano over infringements at his zoo in Montekristo.

On Sunday, the government said it is taking the incident “seriously” and called on police to “investigate the case as best as possible and to take all necessary steps against who is responsible.”

AD uninterested in ‘crocodile tears’, says country is run by unelected business people

Earlier, Alternattiva Demokratika chairperson Arnold Cassola launched a scathing attack against Maltese politicians, arguing that both present and past administrations failed to clamp down against the illegalities at the Montekristo Estate.

“We are no longer interested in crocodile tears by Joseph Muscat and Simon Busuttil as their parties failed to act effectively against the rampant illegalities by the Polidano Group … This is just another in a series of accidents which is showing that the rule of law is rapidly collapsing in our country,” Cassola said while calling for political responsibility to be shouldered.

The AD chairperson also said “Malta is being run by unelected business people acting illegally and not by our elected representatives. We have had Paqpaqli a few weeks ago, Paceville two weeks ago, now this at Polidano’s illegal complex [sic].”

Simon Galea, the Greens’ spokesperson on animal welfare, said Saturday’s incident was a “result of the incompetence of governments which refrained from enforcing the law in order to favour Charles Polidano.”

“Reports the media about all the illegalities concerning Montekristo Estates, including the said zoo, have been going on for years without any concrete enforcement measures being taken. It is amazing how some people are above the law,” Galea said.

Alternattiva Demokratika also questioned whether the President of the Republic would hold events at the site, ostensibly taking a swipe at MPs and political candidates who previously held functions at the complex.

Echoing AD’s condemnation of the incident, three environmental NGOs said the holding of several political gatherings, state-sponsored events at the Montekristo Estate is a “sad reflection of our politicians’ lack of ethics.”

In a statement, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA), Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Ramblers said the enforcement action carried out by MEPA officials and the Armed Forces of Malta against the illegalities at the Montekristo estate was just a “sham” as the majority of the structures are still standing and the zoo is still operating as a profit-making commercial venture.

“This same tolerance, if not blessing, of illegal and unsafe practices have contributed to an unnecessary accident and the precipitation of anguish on this family,” the eNGOs said while wishing the child a speedy recovery.