Remember that entry I wrote about the Flying Goat? The one on the Cyprus Airways logo? Well, it’s called the Cyprus Mouflon. Apparently it’s not even a goat, but a wild sheep (looks more like a goat to me!) – that’s native to Cyprus, and the largest native mammal on the island. A while back, The Troodos Mountains were opened up as a huge game reserve, and large numbers of the Mouflon were wiped out. The Mouflon is apparently very very fast (hence the reason for the logo), and has large horns, so presumably a fantastic sport for rich men many hundreds of years ago with something to prove. During the first year of British rule in 1878, a survey only found 20 of the animals (the survey probably wasn’t too in depth, no doubt) – but the numbers have been increasing since 1939, when the Pafos forest became a reserve, and goat grazing was banned (removing a lot of the competition for food). They estimate around 3000 of them currently on the island. The interesting fact from my Globetrotter’s guide to Cyprus – is that remains of the Mouflon have been found in Neolithic settlements dating back to 6000 BC when they might have been domesticated.
So why am I telling you this? A lot of you know about the obsession with Llama’s. They’re just cool. In a similar way, goats also have that special air of greatness about them. Especially extremely wise ones (they have those wispy beards), and mental devil ones (they have *those* eyes).
Okay, I know I said Mouflon’s are sheep – but so what – when I heard about the Mouflon, I decided I had to see one. Disappointed that I haven’t seen any walking down the street, I’d hoped to see entire herds of them strolling around the mountains, drinking local wine and sipping coffee at the coffee shops in the small villages, perhaps sharing a joke with some of their friends. None of that either. Mouflon’s are very shy animals. THAT’s why I hadn’t seen one, I’d been looking in all the right places after all…
So today I did the next best thing to seeing them in their natural habitat – and went to the Limassol Zoo.
At the bargain price of 80 cents (almost a UK £1), I walked through the gates of the zoo, turned to my left – and there were the Mouflon. All wandering around miles away at the back. Like I said, it looks a lot like a goat. Actually, in the same way a Llama is a sheep crossed with a horse, a Mouflon is a goat crossed with a small donkey (without the belly – they run really fast remember). They look like fantastic animals though, with huge curled horns (THAT parts looks like a sheep – so maybe I can believe they’re sheep after all).
The zoo also had some other fascinating animals. Including cockateils, rabbits, and guinea pigs. More exciting than that was the huge camel, that I called Clive; a big monkey thing I called Norris (sorry Norris, I don’t know what kind of monkey you are); some very sleepy leopards that might well have been dead for all I knew; a lion that wanted to eat me – as I walked past it said “growl” at me, although it might have been purring; some goats (they were all called Goaty, in true goat-tradition); some *HUGE* vultures that had some really nice looking rotting carcasses for lunch; some zebras (they still make me laugh – one was called Marco, but I didn’t name the rest); and a few others, but I won’t keep listing them.
Sadly missing from its cage was the bear. It was on the map “here be bears” – but the cage was empty. No missing bars, and no bear hiding with its arms and legs stretched out on the roof of the cage – waiting for the zoo keeper to walk in, scratch his head and walk out leaving the door open.
The zoo was rather small, so I walked around it a few times, before stopping at the gate to watch the Mouflon. Since they were really what I’d paid the 80 cents for. I’m afraid the pictures of the Mouflon I got are probably rather crap, since the only way I could get a photo over the 8ft fence (in case they run and jump) was when they were far away. We’ll see how they turn out though, and I’ll put them on-line.
For now, I dedicate this entry to the Mouflon, and their bravery in the face of near-extinction. Mouflon. We salute you!