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Animal rights activists fuming over caged bears

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Animal welfare services and rights organisations are fuming with the owner of ‘Melios Zoo’ over the recent addition of two brown bears despite Cyprus’ hot weather being less than ideal.

The two brown bears, aged 5, according to the owner of the former zoo – now known simply as ‘Melios’- Menelaos Menelaou, came to the authorities’ attention when a veterinary officer from the Nicosia district responded to visitors’ complaints.

In a letter to the Agriculture Ministry, Christodoulos Pipis, the Director of Veterinary Services, revealed that the authority believes Melios imported the bears illegally.

Pipis notes that on three separate occasions, Menelaou was asked to provide permits for the bears but offered various excuses, including a lack of time and the unavailability of the individual responsible for these documents.

He said that Melios’ behaviour was a “customary approach, marked by non-cooperation with the services and prior convictions for unlawful animal detention and law violations”.

Pipis said the service had several issues with the establishment in the past, as it lacks both a zoo license and a dealer/business license.

Melios maintains animals such as lions and now brown bears.

The Veterinary Services have filed a complaint with the Police, who will appoint an investigator and gather statements.

The Legal Service has also been tasked with initiating legal proceedings against the owner, seeking a court order prohibiting him from housing animals on his premises due to alleged legislative violations.

Talking to the Financial Mirror, Petrula Petru, representing a group of organisations campaigning to have the bears and other animals kept at Melios park sent to refuge centres, said the bears cannot survive in Cyprus conditions.

A volunteer working with a brown bear shelter in Greece said these bears cannot survive in temperatures of more than 30 degrees Celsius.

“These bears live in mountainous areas with temperatures of a maximum of 27 to 28 degrees.

“With Cyprus’ high temperatures, it will be impossible for these animals to hibernate, causing disturbances in their psychosynthesis.

“Looking at the bears, someone with experience can tell they are stressed.

“They sit and make circular motions with their head, a clear indication of stress.

“The enclosure they are currently kept is too small for them.

“These animals cover large distances on a daily basis,” said Petru.

Menelaou, on Omega TV, claimed that he had been wrongfully targeted by authorities, specifically by the head of the Veterinary Services, Pipis.

He claimed the authorities had targeted him following a complaint he filed against Pipis with the Independent Authority against Corruption.

“Why now? They knew about the existence of these animals for some time now,” said Menelaou, arguing the animals have been there for five years.

“Could this have anything to do with a complaint I filed against the Director of the Veterinary Services, submitted on 28 August 2023?”