NGO’s and Zoo Combine Forces to Return Taiping 4 Gorillas to Cameroon

Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Cape Town, South Africa
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW - www.ifaw.org) and the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (NZG of SA) have announced that the Taiping 4 gorillas are to be returned to Cameroon in early December.
IFAW and the National Zoo met in Pretoria last week and agreed to collaborate on all levels to return the gorillas to the Cameroon. A working date of 7 December 2006 has been set.

The decision ends months of speculation regarding the possibility of the gorillas being sent to the Cameroon.

“IFAW is absolutely delighted by this turn of events which signals a happy outcome to the saga of Izan, Abbey, Tinu and Oyin, the four young gorillas – three females and a male – who have captured the imaginations of animal lovers worldwide for nearly three years,” said Christina Pretorius, Communications Manager for IFAW Southern Africa.

“IFAW and the National Zoo will be working together to ensure the safe transfer of the so-called Taiping 4 to the Cameroon,” she said. Last week’s meeting was also attended by the Pandrillus Foundation which manages the Limbe Wildlife Centre in Douala, Cameroon, to where the gorillas will be transferred.

The Executive Director of the NZG of SA, Willie Labuschagne, says although the National Zoo and the people of South Africa are sad to see the animals leave, the Zoo will do everything within its power  to facilitate the safe transfer of the gorillas to the Cameroon. “The wellbeing of the four gorillas is of paramount importance to us,” he said.

Independent DNA sampling commissioned by the NZG of SA confirmed that the Cameroon was the most likely place of origin of these gorillas. The government of the Cameroon began a series of formal requests for the gorillas’ return in 2002 and Malaysia informed the South African officials of the decision to transfer the gorillas in July 2006.

Keepers from both Limbe and the NZG of SA will spend time at the respective institutions prior to and after the transfer of the gorillas to ensure the smooth transition of the animals to their new home.

IFAW earlier agreed to fund the return of the four Western lowland gorillas. The organisation is one of a number of groups including the Born Free Foundation, the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), the International Primates Protection League (IPPL), and the Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA) that have lobbied consistently to have the gorillas returned to the Cameroon.

The four gorillas, popularly known as the “Taiping Four” made international headlines when they were found to be have been illegally imported from Nigeria to Malaysia. On their arrival in Malaysia it was found that their import documents were falsified and consequently the management authority of CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) in Malaysia confiscated the four animals.

In compliance with the CITES code of conduct regarding confiscated animals, the relevant government has to source suitable accommodation for the animals in question. In response to this, the NZG of SA offered to house the “Taiping Four” on a permanent basis. The Malaysian authorities were satisfied with the conditions set out in the application of the NZG of SA and the four infants arrived in the country on 14 April 2004.

“IFAW, with the National Zoo, is pleased to be part of a team of dedicated professionals who will be working together in the coming weeks and focusing on the best interests and the welfare of the gorillas as we get ready to translocate them to the Cameroon,” said Pretorius.

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