The Bird & Animal Park was originally created to house the sizeable bird collection of its founder, Mr. Christos Christoforou. First only intended for private use, he decided to open the Park for the public, so that they may also enjoy the splendours of this bird collection, now the third largest in Europe. One of Christoforou’s aim was to educate the local community about the importance of animal life conservation. The Park took 3 years to complete and it was finally opened to the public in September 2003.
As Christoforou is committed to education he is constantly upgrading & adding new features to the Park, like the Amphitheatre which opened in 2004 and will hold 350 guests. The Amphitheatre’s main purpose is to hold educational talks about the various wildlife kept in the Park as well as showing wildlife documentaries.
The Zoo’s collection of exotic animals has been growing over the past few years and now include — besides birds — zebra, giraffes, gazelle and several primate species. The zoo still expands, with a new enclosure for White lions, which arrived 27th July 2011, an enclosure for Bengal tigers and one for elephants, both species expected to arrive in 2011, too.
(Sources: Pafos Zoo website; Sunjet Magazine, Oct/Nov/Dec 2011)
The Zoo is set beautifully at the Cypriot foothills just off the main road north of Pafos. The road that leads to the entrance winds along banana plantations, which brings you in the right mood for viewing exotic animals. When you are not familiar with banana plantations of course. The small building that contains the ticket office, administration and souvenir shop gives entrance to a fairly new zoo that is still expanding and developing. From certain spots on the premises there are nice views on the Mediterranean Sea. The Zoo’s overall design with broad footpaths and parts of the grounds still without exhibits creates a park-like atmosphere, though meadows for recreational picnics are lacking.
The Zoo has got an impressively huge collection of doves and psittacines (or parrots), such as Macaws, Amazons, Cockatoos, Parakeets, Conures and Rosellas. The special walkway along the Zoo’s parakeets collection offers many species and subspecies of these active and colourful birds. Especially the Australian Rosellas and South-American Conures display a beautiful array of colours.
A lot of the aviaries seem brand new. Nevertheless the first signs of deterioration can be recognised. Especially, the macaws have demolished parts of the wooden board structures with their strong beaks. The aviaries all have a similar construction. These are wire mesh cages built on a foundation of concrete. One top corner has wooden side-panels and a corrugated roof, which provide protection against wind, rain and sunshine. The benefit of this uniform construction and rather old-fashioned display of the bird collection is that it doesn’t distract the people from what they come to see: the birds. However, the aviaries do not provide a naturalistic habitat for most of the birds, in terms of lack of foliage and opportunity to express natural behaviour as flying and foraging. Especially the height of the enclosures for the Manchurian crane (Grus japonensis) and Sarus crane (Grus antigone) was disappointingly low.
You would expect a walk-through mixed species aviary in such a new zoo, but the decision has been otherwise. Therefore, the duck pond is a relief. This is the heart of the Zoo with a couple of small interconnected ponds, a few small waterfalls, willow trees and green lawns. It is a bar-less enclosure with black swans and several species of ducks and geese.
The decision to start keeping monkeys, other than the marmosets, has been a mistake in my opinion. Even more the design of the enclosures. The five monkey species (Mandrill, Vervet monkey, Barbary macaque, Black howler and Crab-eating macaque) are kept in exactly the same type enclosure. Five in a row, with the same design and the same type of enrichment. This is almost a disgrace when you consider that black howlers’ habitat is predominantly South-American rainforest and Barabary macaques’ is partly terrestrial.
The collection consists of a lot of animals that are considered of least concern according to IUCN (Red List). This could be regarded inappropriate when taking into account that modern zoo philosophy is focused on four objectives: conservation, education, research and recreation. Especially, the conservation philosophy is missing in this case.
Zoo management take their educational task serious, as most signs near the enclosures provide detailed information on the animals’ IUCN conservation status, habitat and geographical origin. This allows the visitors to inform themselves about the animals on display. Nevertheless, sometimes the animals are grouped in a strange way, by which the educational value get lost for the more ignorant visitor. For instance there are several enclosures with Thomson’s gazelle; one of them is next to the restaurant where they are housed together with Axis deer. This is, especially because it is one of the few mixed species exhibits, a strange combination because the Thomson’s gazelle come from Africa and the Axis deer from Asia.
Considering the grouping of the animals some additional remarks can be made. It seems that they started off with a grouping based on taxonomic classification, but later on decided that it would be better to display species based on continental grouping. This creates some confusion, like when the visitor see in adjacent enclosures Rhea and Ostriches, followed by Emu. Then the adjacent enclosure harbours the Llama, which is followed by the Zebra and Giraffe. And a bit further down the path the visitor can find the Elephant, Tiger (coming soon) and Lion (just arrived) close together. With the inevitable peacocks roaming free and outnumbering lots of other species.
As mentioned earlier, the Zoo is still expanding and responding to request from visitors to acquire certain animals. There is an elephant enclosure under development, the new Bengal tiger enclosure looks as if it is ready to house the announced new arrivals and two 7-months old White lion (Panthera leo krugeri) cubs from South Africa arrived in July this year. The elephant’s exhibit looks insufficient to house such a large pachyderm, but I might be wrong. It is just that the outer fence seems unable to create a good barrier to confine an elephant, and prevent it to break out.
Compared to the lion enclosure the tiger enclosure is rather small, with a few dedicated spots for the animals to rest. The tiger(s) has to do without a pool and hopefully will adapt to the wire mesh fences all around. The grass will probably not be unfamiliar for the tiger(s), but the total lack of privacy could compromise their natural behaviour.
What struck me the most was that both the lion and tiger enclosure lack high level observation posts, which to me is an essential requirement for appropriate feline husbandry. And the few rocks for the animals to lie on are definitely not suitable for high level observation. Furthermore, no shelters or other places to hide from the public are available in both the large cats enclosures. Although this does not seem necessary for the lion cubs, as they seek contact with the audience — approaching the wire mesh fence as soon as people appear in front of their enclosure. Probably the cubs are hand raised, and that might cause this behaviour. The female lion cub has a large (acquired) bursa at her right elbow, which doesn’t seem to bother her.
The lion cubs, which came from South Africa, belong to a rare color mutation of the Kruger subspecies of lion (Panthera leo krugeri). These White lions have been perpetuated by selective breeding in zoos around the world, which includes inbreeding. The animals are therefore vulnerable for inbreeding depression (genetic defects, reduced fertility, and physical defects) although this has not yet been recorded in white lions in zoos as it has been in white tigers. As a matter of fact White lions are not yet a separate subspecies, and do not appear on the IUCN Red List. Therefore, keeping White lions in captivity does not contribute to conservation efforts to alleviate the fate of endangered lions in the wild. Furthermore, some critics state that white lions should not be introduced in to the wild because of the inbreeding that has taken place over zoos and breeding camps. However, ethical reintroduction programs such as The Global White Lion Protection Trust have ensured through the use of scientific methodologies that the lions in their program are not inbred (Wikipedia).
Introduction of White lions in Pafos Zoo is therefore a peculiar choice, in my opinion. It could raise questions regarding the Zoo’s intention and seriousness to enhance their conservation efforts. They do not keep many endangered species yet and so have a minor contribution to conservation in terms of genetic preservation. Keeping a subspecies that is disputed does not really increase the track record. I hope it is not about the exclusiveness, which could attract more visitors, that they decided to turn to White lions instead of Asian lions for instance. But breeding albino Bennetts wallabies for some years now makes this doubtful. I am not familiar with the Zoo’s breeding track record, but it is obvious that breeding is absolutely one of the objectives as of many species they keep male and female specimen together.
Directions to Pafos Zoo
Pafos Zoo is not located in the city of Pafos but more close to a much smaller municipality, Peyia, north of Pafos. The Zoo can be found on the Cypriot coast about 15 km north of Pafos.
From Pafos there is a bus service to Coral Bay (bus #615), which connects to bus #616 (A or B, but B has detour) to Agios Georgios Pegeias. You have to get out at bus stop Ag Georgios Pegeias 7. Then another walk of about 1 km uphill to the Zoo entrance. The bus service between Coral Bay and Agios Georgios Pegeias is not very frequent. Total travel time from Pafos to the bus stop Ag Georgios Pegeias 7 is about 70 minutes. If you are not based in the Pafos vicinity public transport is probably not your first choice. Cyprus by Bus provides all the details on routes, timetables and fares.
It depends on where you stay on the island, but if your (vacation) home is not within a 15 km range of the Zoo you are either very fit or you don’t really want to see the Zoo when you go by bicycle.
A rental car was my mode of transportation when I visited Pafos Zoo in November 2011 and stayed in Limassol. Driving on Cyprus is quite relaxed as long as you remember you have to stay on the left side of the road, which can be difficult sometimes in remote areas, when you are not used to drive on the left hand side.
Of course you can always decide to take a taxi, but you are more flexible with ‘your own car’ and unless your point of departure is close to Pafos a taxi will be more expensive than a rental car.
Download the zoo map here.