Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Zion's big cat fight in court today

Craig Busch  - the 'Lion Man' - at the Zion Wildlife Park, where the future of 36 big cats at the park are to be considered at an urgent hearing. Photo / APN
Craig Busch - the 'Lion Man' - at the Zion Wildlife Park, where the future of 36 big cats at the park are to be considered at an urgent hearing. Photo / APN

It is still not clear whether the sale of the Zion Wildlife Gardens will involve euthanizing 36 big cats.

The struggling Northland wildlife park was placed into liquidation in August after the High Court at Whangarei found it could not pay debts said to be more than $100,000.

An offer of purchase has been made to receivers PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), but what this will mean for the fate of the cats is still not known.

In the High Court at Auckland today (Wed), PWC lawyer Justin Toebes sought to postpone providing details of the proposed sale but Justice Mark Woolford requested a copy of the offer, which will be presented to the court later today.

This will not disclose commercially sensitive information, such as the name of the prospective buyer.

Mr Toebes also made an application regarding the right of the receivers to enter the park.

Lawyer for park operator Patricia Busch, Evgeny Orlov, said he had anticipated today's hearing to be about whether or not the cats could be put down, and he said Mr Toebes had tried to avoid addressing the issue due to the large media presence in court today.

Mr Orlov said the cats were "suffering'' because the receivers were interfering with the running of the park.

"Every day these court proceedings continue, the fate of the animals lies in the balance.''

Mr Toebes said this was "totally untrue''.

Mr Orlov sought to have all matters adjourned until a scheduled two-day hearing in the High Court at Whangarei in February.

The hearing continues.

- APNZ

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