Updated 4pm with zoo owner's reaction

A zoo that was built illegally and later sanctioned by the Planning Authority is seeking a large extension and applying to sanction masonry structures that currently exist outside of planning constraints. 

L-Arka ta Noe, in the limits of Siġġiewi, currently sprawls over 10,500 square metres of agricultural land and a disused quarry outside of the development zone. 

Several exotic animals are housed on the property, including Siberian tigers, black leopards, alpacas, wallabies and monkeys. The complex includes a residential farmhouse, parking lot and catering area. 

Approved against a €50,000 fine in 2017, the PA voted to sanction the zoo despite the objection of the Environmental Resources Authority, based on a claim that the zoo served a therapeutic function and would provide free visits to schools. 

What the zoo is applying for

Zoo owner Anton Cutajar submitted an application to expand the zoo in February this year as part of a screening application. Limited information about the plans were only made publicly available recently.   

The application seeks to sanction five animal enclosures, a multipurpose hall, a farmhouse with a pool, two stores, restrooms, a parking area and an existing boundary wall. 

Cutajar has also applied to add four more fenced animal enclosures to the zoo and is seeking to include a masterplan for future extensions of the premises. 

Later on Wednesday, Cutajar published a 14-minute long live video in which he angrily criticised Times of Malta and Malta Today for having reported on his plans to extend his zoo. 

Pacing up and down the zoo grounds, an angry Cutajar argued that he was being scapegoated and said: "I'm not threatening anyone, but I'm warning you to leave me alone". 

The Siġġiewi zoo's plans are likely to run into staunch opposition from animal welfare activists Time for Change. The group is currently campaigning for the introduction of more comprehensive legislation for zoos, including specific requirements for animal enclosures that are tailored to the needs of specific animals, as well as a requirement for local zoos to be members of international zoo regulatory bodies that will ensure the accepted international best practices for enclosure standards are maintained. 

The group is also pushing for the introduction of a registry for exotic animals, amid concerns of uncontrolled breeding and the inverse affects sprawling zoo complexes are having on native biodiversity.

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