Cameroon Seeks to Reclaim Gorillas from South Africa

Thursday, October 13, 2005
Cape Town, South Africa
A high-level delegation of Cameroon government officials arrives in South Africa on Saturday ahead of week-long talks intended to secure the return of the “Taiping 4” gorillas.
The four young Western Lowland gorillas were illegally captured in Cameroon and sent to the Taiping Zoo in Malaysia in 2002 using forged documentation. Following their confiscation by the Government of Malaysia, the gorillas were transferred to the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria, South Africa in 2004.

The Government of Cameroon has repeatedly called for the return of its gorillas in terms of the regulations of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which states that, wherever possible, confiscated animals are to be returned to their native land.

The Cameroon delegation represents three government ministries: the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, the Ministry of Environment and Protection of Nature and the Ministry of External Affairs. They are to meet with the South African Department of Environment and Tourism between Monday 17th and Friday 21st October, to negotiate an agreement as regards the future of the gorillas.

NGO groups have welcomed the arrival of the Cameroon delegation.

“The Government of Cameroon has led the effort to transfer the gorillas, and has insisted since 2002 upon their return.

“Cameroon’s initiative is supported by a consortium of wildlife conservation and welfare organisations. IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org), along with the International Primate Protection League (IPPL), the Born Free Foundation, the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) and the Pandrillus Foundation are committed to the repatriation and long-term care of the gorillas,” said Christina Pretorius, a spokesperson for IFAW.

“In Cameroon, the gorillas will be transferred to the Limbe Wildlife Centre, a sanctuary facility that is managed through a partnership between Pandrillus and the Government of Cameroon.”

  • CITES Annex reads: “When disposing of confiscated animals,  authorities must adhere to national, regional and international law. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) requires that confiscated individuals of species listed in the treaty’s Appendices be returned to the “State of Export … or to a rescue centre or such other place as the Management Authority deems appropriate and consistent with the purpose of the Convention” (Article VIII).
  • Western Lowland Gorillas (gorilla, gorilla, gorilla) are classified as endangered by the IUCN, the World Conservation Union. It is estimated that as few as 110,000 animals remain in the wild in Central Africa.)         

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