By Ariadne Massa
Mepa approves menagerie that owner hopes to open as a public attraction.
Hidden behind a nondescript wall in Mtaħleb lays Malta’s first small-scale zoo where lions, tigers, lemurs, otters, wallabies and flamingos coexist.
The Wildlife Park Malta is also home to Lentilka, the 380-kilogram Bengal tiger, which caused an uproar in October 2009 when she was discovered living at the top of a sprawling Mosta warehouse.
Four years on Lentilka is in good company – the park has two other Bengal tigers, two lions, two pumas, and two lynx – and she is also pregnant, but park owner Chris Borg plans to send the cubs abroad.
As Mr Borg calls each one by name they prick their ears and let out a guttural purr, rubbing their head against the fence and moaning softly as he rubs under their neck.
Each wildcat was brought from a zoo or circus and, apart from the lynx, were just a few days old when they arrived and needed Mr Borg to bottlefeed and raise them.
As cubs they roamed freely around the house with his wife and two children until they grew up and moved into their spacious pens. The bond with their owner is visible to this day.
The cubs were obtained from wildcats bred in captivity according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), and the paperwork satisfies criteria set by relevant EC regulations.
The arrival of Lentilka in 2009 had exposed the absence of specific regulations for exotic animals when imported as pets, but legislation coming into force in April means these will have to be registered and properly licensed.
Since 2009, Mr Borg has been tiptoeing through a minefield of planning authority obstacles to regularise his position, but last Thursday Mepa finally sanctioned his set-up in Mtaħleb, limits of Rabat.
His next step is to apply for a zoo licence with the veterinary department enabling him to finally fulfil his dream to turn the place into an attraction.
Mr Borg’s face lights up as he speaks excitedly about his plans for the park, which is spread over 2,000 square metres of land.
A businessman by profession, the animals were quickly eating into his savings – 110kg of meat is consumed every day – but now he has Mepa’s green light he can apply for EU funds to upgrade the place.
When he gets the zoo licence, the entrance fee will enable him to sustain the day-to-day running of the park.
Mr Borg is so devoted to his animals – “I love them as much as my kids” – that he is now living on the park with his family.
His wife Oksana wakes up at 5am every day to prepare raw meat and after taking Dylan and Yulia to school she returns to feed the animals. What started off as a childhood fascination with wildlife for Mr Borg is now a full-time job for Oksana, who pretends she is offended that despite her hard work, the wildcats remain solely devoted to her husband. Video and photos.