NICOSIA (AFP) – Red deer steaks could find their way to the menus of swanky Cypriot restaurants in a forestry department slaughter scheme to rid the mountains of the animal that is causing havoc with the island’s endangered moufflon sheep population. A herd of 50 Swiss red deer roaming the Tylliria mountains in Paphos will be killed and the meat sold to the highest bidder amid fears the animals’ eating habits are leaving little food for the indigenous moufflon. The problem is that the Swiss herd scrape the bark off trees and voraciously consume shrubbery – squeezing the island’s 2,000 moufflon out of a square meal. The red deer compete for food and are much stronger than our moufflon, forestry department chief Aristos Ioannou told AFP. I don’t think anyone in his right mind would permit these animals to flourish at the expense of the moufflon, he added. The 34 female and 16 male red deer will be rounded up, weighed and slaughtered at the remote mountain village of Stavros Tis Psokas in groups of about 10-15 starting early next year. Within five years the island’s deer population will be wiped out for the sake of the moufflon’s future. The rare moufflon, small wild sheep with the males bearing their trademark large curling horns, have made a healthy comeback in recent years, after teetering on the brink of extinction in the mid-1970s through to the 1980s. The deer meat will be auctioned off to anyone willing to pay the most cash. Buyers who aim to sell the meat on the open market must obtain the appropriate license. Ioannou said sacrificing the deer was a last resort after repeated unsuccessful attempts to gift the deer to private game reserves, farmers and even Limassol Zoo. The herd, started off by mistake when three red deer were brought in from Switzerland back in 1982. According to Ioannou, the two hinds and one stag – from the European red deer family Cervus Elaphus – are a deer species totally alien to Cyprus. They were shipped here after a mix-up in a request by the forestry department who actually wanted to breed Persian fallow deer. While the Federation of Court Officials, represented by their president Roula Mitsoni, expressed similar views, their objections are focused more on the electronic keeping of minutes by a private firm. The logic of privatization, said Mitsoni. .. does not fit in with the. .. constitutionally established function of justice. To safeguard the unimpeachability of the legal system, she proposes that minutes are kept through technological means which belong to the State and with court officials who have specialized and are trained in their use.