‘Lion Man’ Craig Busch – Source: ONE News
- Published: 6:08AM Wednesday February 01, 2012 Source: ONE News
Lion Man Craig Busch is back caring for the big cats at Northland’s Zion Wildlife Gardens, and its new owners say the park will reopen soon.
But the family battle over the legal rights to care for the cats rages on.
Today the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry confirmed Patricia Busch was the legal operator of the park, but when she left the park to meet with her lawyer, she was told she could not return.
Patricia says she has been bullied and threatened since the new owners turned up with police yesterday.
She says she is the only one who can take care of the cats.
MAF released a statement today saying Patricia remains the operator of Zion Wildlife Park and as far as they know the owners have not filed a new application to take over.
Patricia claims her phone was cut off and her daughter Megan arrested for trespassing, in action which their lawyer Evgeny Orlov described as “highly improper”.
“It also transpired the business had been sold to people associated with Craig Busch, which is something the receivers did not tell the court [at an earlier hearing],” he said.
“There is an injunction on Mr Busch and a hearing in February as to who owns the animals, and they’re trying to get rid of that through the back door by trying to stop her [Patricia Busch] from having any control. I find that dirty tactics.”
Patricia’s lawyer says the new owners have no right to tend to the cats and he is taking the matter to court.
“We’ll be asking the court to intervene in this because, in a sense, the court itself in my view has been railroaded by what’s going on here,” said Orlov.
Orlov said he will be filing proceedings against the police over the arrest of Megan Busch and against the receivers for not saying they were selling the park to people associated with Craig.
Park to open
Late this afternoon new owner Beth McVerry issued a statement saying she is thrilled to ensure the long term future of the Zion cats and that she is looking to reopen the park very soon.
The company is registered to an address in Tauranga.
Zion Wildlife Gardens rose to fame through the Lion Man Television series, fronted by Busch, who opened Zion in 2002.
Patricia took over in 2006 after she raised loans to help pay off growing debts and Craig’s employment ended in 2008, sparking a long-running legal battle between the pair.
The park went into liquidation in August last year after an application to liquidate was made by Inland Revenue, with lawyer Phil Smith claiming that Zion owes more than $100,000 in taxes.
There had been concerns that the 36 rare big cats that lived at the park would have to be put down as a buyer was sought for the park, but these fears have been allayed by the receivers.
“The welfare of the wildlife at Zion has always been a priority for the receivers and we’re pleased to announce the completion of the sale and purchase agreement which enables the wildlife to remain at the park,” receiver Colin McCloy said.
The receivers said the details of the deal are commercially sensitive and they could not give any more information, other than to say the keys of the park now lie with the new owners.
Staff at the park were told of the sale yesterday morning and have been stood down on full pay. The new owners will now take control of employment issues.