Israeli Crocodiles From Closed Park May Find Refuge in Cyprus

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Small crocodiles in the crocodile park in the northern Jordan Valley, 2011
Small crocodiles in the crocodile park in the northern Jordan Valley, 2011Credit: Gil Eliahu

The crocodile park in the northern Jordan Valley, which has long been closed to the public, may be one step closer to being moved to Cyprus.

Last week the Cypriot newspaper Cyprus Mail reported that the local council of Achna, in the Famagusta district, had given a green light to set up a park to which the crocodiles will be moved. The new park is the initiative of an Israeli-owned company called TSA Crocopark.

Although the town council passed the initiative by a vote of 6-3, it added that it would have to receive the approval of the residents. The council also stressed that it was approving the creation of a theme park and not a breeding farm for the sale of crocodiles or for their slaughter for their skin or meat.

Other locales in Cyprus had nixed the idea after residents objected to the dangerous animals being in their proximity. The Israeli company is planning a presentation to Achna’s residents soon.

The Jordan Valley park, located near the settlement of Petzael, has around 1,000 crocodiles. Though the park is closed, the animals are fed regularly as its owner, Gadi Bitan, seeks to move the park to Cyprus. Residents of the Jordan Valley Regional Council are eager to see it go, because in the past there had been instances of crocodiles escaping. In 2011, dozens of the creatures escaped when a gate was inadvertently left open, it took days to recapture them.

Jordan Valley Regional Council chairman David Elhayani said the council is eyeing the park’s land to build other tourism initiatives. And while no crocs have escaped recently, “They continue to breed and multiply,” he said.

In a statement, the Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories said the Civil Administration is continuing its efforts to find a solution for the crocodiles but has not yet located an appropriate alternative site. “The Civil Administration focuses its efforts on protecting public safety and finding a safe alternative site to which the crocodiles will be moved.”