RESIDENTS of Psematismenos in Larnaca are threatening to close roads and other measures to prevent the creation of a crocodile park in their area.
The decision to take action was discussed at a meeting on Tuesday night and included residents from the wider region including Kofinou, Skarinou, Tochni, Choirokoitia, Ayios Theodoros until Asgata. A presentation was also made on the issues surrounding the creation of the park, which opponents say will have as many as 1,000 crocodiles.
Psematismenos community leader Christodoulos Papachristou said on Wednesday the residents haf decided to send a letter immediately to Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos demanding he issue instructions to stop the planned park for health reasons and the safety of residents. They fear that if the crocodiles ever escaped, it would pose serious dangers to the communities and the environment.
“The main reason for the refusal of local residents to allow the creation of a crocodile park is the health issue, which has been raised at the relevant parliamentary committees,” said Papachristou, referring to the possibility of an outbreak of Nile virus “an infectious disease that thrives in populations of crocodiles and can be transmitted to humans with deadly results,” he said. “Also crocodiles would be a foreign element introduced to the ecosystem of Cyprus.”
Papachristou said the farm would only be 50 metres from the residential area of Psematismenos “and within another 100 metres there are also homes in the communities of Tochni and Skarinou”.
Also against the park were the Larnaca Municipality, and the Union of Communities of Larnaca, and Vasilikos, he told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA).
Papachristou said the only ones who seemed to be in favour were officials at the agriculture and environment ministry, which has said that if all safety requirements were met, the park could go ahead.
He said not all of the 16 conditions could be met, among them the amount of water that would be needed to take care of so many crocodiles.
“We will give a reasonable time to Mr Hasikos to reply to the letter that we will send today and then we will take more drastic measures such as closing roads, and we will look into legal measures,” said Papachristou.
Green Party leader Giorgos Perdikis charged earlier this month that political pressure was put on the environment department to allow the operation of the theme park despite the widespread opposition.
Perdikis said at a House environment committee meeting that none of the 10 advisors from various government departments and other organisations were positive towards the project, yet the minister put pressure on the environment authority to issue the permit. The park now only needs the go-ahead from the town-planning department.
Costas Constantinou, the co-owner of the group of companies planning to build the farm, told MPs during the same meeting that the park would have 170 to 200 of the reptiles.
He said the company would comply with the strict conditions set by the environment department for the theme park that is expected to cost €8m. It would plant thousands of native trees and bushes and would adhere to strict safety rules, he said.
The crocodiles will be brought from a farm in Israel and each one will carry a radio frequency identification tag (RFID) for identification and tracking purposes.