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Animals should not be outside enclosures, and visitors need to be more educated - park owner

File photo - Chris Borg with some of his animals.

File photo - Chris Borg with some of his animals.

Wild animals should never be outside their enclosures while visitors are present but members of the public have to take greater responsibility for their own safety, according to the owner of Malta’s only licenced zoo.

Chris Borg, who owns the Wildlife Park in the limits of Rabat, told the Times of Malta that as wild animals could react unpredictably around people, repeatedly letting them out made an accident almost inevitable.

Mr Borg, however, defended Montekristo owner Charles Polidano, who has been charged over alleged infringements at his zoo. He insisted Mr Polidano had sought to regularise his position, including animal welfare issues surrounding the zoo’s enclosures, but had been prevented by bureaucratic red tape.

People need to be educated; these are wild animals. Zoos also need to make sure that they have good security in place if people are wandering around on their own

“I believe we’re now going to have more regulations, when safety has to begin with the people who come to the zoo,” Mr Borg said. “I’ve had guests banging on the glass or trying to take selfies with the animals. People need to be educated; these are wild animals. Zoos also need to make sure that they have good security in place if people are wandering around on their own.”

Mr Borg also drew attention to the number of people importing exotic animals as “trophies”, which he described as an accident waiting to happen.

Regulations coming into force by the end of the year will require anyone wishing to import a domestic animal to seek the approval of a director for veterinary services and ensure it is tagged and registered.

So far the only control is the need of a passport showing the animal came through customs and border inspection and was checked by a vet.

Meanwhile, the Animal Rights Coalition yesterday called on the public not to support any establishments operating outside the law due to concerns over health and safety and the animals’ well-being.

With regard to Montekristo, chairwoman Myriam Kirkwood blamed the handlers for not having the expertise to take “common sense precautions” when dealing with powerful wild animals.

The owners, she added, had to take responsibility for running an illegal establishment housing animals – including some on the endangered list – “in unsuitable and inadequate conditions”.

“Finally, the authorities are to blame for not immediately closing down an establishment which for a number of years has been openly operating with full disregard of the law,” she said.

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