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Receiver looking for buyers of Lion Man's Zion Wildlife Gardens

Thursday 29th September 2011

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The receiver for Zion Wildlife Gardens, Northland’s big cat reserve, is in talks with interested parties looking to buy the land and animals, though there probably won’t be enough money to pay unsecured creditors.

Receivers Colin McCloy and David Bridgman of PwC have begun the sale process and are “working with a number of interested parties in this respect,” they said in their first report.

The park, which housed 36 big cats including lions, tigers, cheetahs and a leopard, is still running tours that were booked prior to its closure, but is otherwise closed to the public.

Since their appointment, the receivers have stressed in their updates that they are doing their best to maintain the welfare of the animals.

The park called in receivers after defaulting on its loans in July, and owes some $2.7 million to Rabobank as first ranking secured creditor and $292,000 to owner Patricia Busch as second ranking creditor.

The receivers have received some $25,000 of claims from unsecured creditors, but don’t expect to have any funds for them in the wind-down process. The Inland Revenue Department has lodged a $135,000 claim.

“The process of realising the companies’ assets is not yet complete,” the report said. “From our observations to date and given the level of secured indebtedness in the companies, we believe that there are unlikely to be any funds available for unsecured creditors.”

The park has struggled in recent years and got unwanted publicity with the fatal mauling of lion keeper Dalu Mncube by a white tiger in 2009. The tiger was shot after the attack.

That followed on from the fight for ownership between so-called ‘Lion Man’ Craig Busch and his mother Patricia, who refinanced the park to keep it afloat in 2006.

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