NEWS

Sultan the lioness still on sale in Cyprus

FAMAGUSTA, Cyprus – «For sale» reads the somber sign attached to the rusty cages of Sultan the lioness, a favorite among pensioners visiting the only zoo in the northern Turkish-controlled sector of Cyprus. The economic crisis afflicting the breakaway state in northern Cyprus, an entity recognized only by Ankara, is the root cause of this lamentable state, says the owner of the zoo in the eastern port of Famagusta. «She has to eat at least four kilograms (nine pounds) of meat per day, but we have only been giving her a half of that for some months now,» said Huseyin Yikilmaz, who bought the zoo a decade ago after years working in Germany. A pet shop opened at the entrance to the establishment has subsidized the zoo over the years, but it has also suffered greatly from the effects of the economic crisis, caused to a large extent by a huge downturn in the value of the Turkish lira, the currency used in northern Cyprus. Visibly weakened by this imposed diet, Sultan, the only carnivore in the zoo that is more than 15 years old, allows herself to be caressed by her owner under the astonished gaze of visitors, whose number diminishes by the day. The large cat, sadly on her own since she came here, was a gift from a zoological park in Turkey. She goes to lie down at the rear of her small enclosure of a mere 25 square meters (270 square feet) after a few casual walkabouts, paying scant at tention to the children calling out to attract her attention. «Sultan keeps getting thinner and will end up as a bag of bones if things continue this way,» warns Yikilmaz, who complains that the Turkish-Cypriot authorities pay no attention to the animal’s welfare, while the «one in Afghanistan» caused «quite an uproar.» He was referring to the fate of the blind lion, Marjon, dubbed the lion king of Kabul, and other animals from the zoo in the Afghan capital, which moved the world and prompted intervention by British parliamentarians. Sultan has, nonetheless, benefited from the British love of animals. A veterinary team from London Zoo operated on her six years ago for a hernia, which was poisoning her. The United Nations force in Cyprus provided food for five years but that stopped after the departure of the Austrian contingent, replaced two years ago by Slovak troops. As for potential buyers, one person has called Yikilmaz. «It was a rich person who likes animals, but he wanted to show her off. I did not sell the animal,» he said, without mentioning the price.