APNZ | Tuesday, January 17, 2012 8:59
Dozens of endangered big cats at the troubled Zion Wildlife Garden could be put down, after the park’s receivers applied to the High Court for an urgent hearing on their fate, a lawyer for the operator says.
The Northland park was placed into liquidation in August after the High Court at Whangerei found it could not pay debts said to be more than $100,000.
The fate of the 36 big cats at the park was to be decided in the High Court next month, but receivers Rabobank have since applied for an urgent hearing, understood to be tomorrow (Wednesday).
Evgeny Orlov, lawyer for park operator Patricia Busch, told Radio New Zealand this morning that the bank’s move was surprising and unfair.
“Many times we’ve tried to approach the bank’s lawyers and say, ‘Look, just let us take the cats to somewhere where the cats can have a happy life’. The bank refused to talk to us so we were waiting for the hearing.”
Mr Orlov argues the cats were wildlife and therefore not property of the receivers.
“The hearing would have decided that very issue of law – whether or not the bank had the security over the animals, or can have.”
Mr Orlov said there were places all over the world where the cats could go, and he had talked to various investors who were very interested in opening a park.
The park was opened in 2002 by Craig Busch, star of the television show Lion Man.
It was taken over by his mother Patricia Busch in 2006 after she raised money to pay off the park’s debts.
A protracted legal battle between the pair ensued, with Mr Busch leaving the park in 2008.
The park’s troubles have been long-running, including the death of South African keeper Dalu Mncube, who was mauled by an endangered white tiger in 2009. The cat was put down.