No Need for Delay, as IFAW Offers to Fund Return of Taiping 4 Gorillas

Tuesday, September 5, 2006
Cape Town, South Africa
Delays should not hamper the early return of the “Taiping Four” - four Western Lowland gorillas - to Cameroon, following an offer by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) to fund their return.
After originally being exported illegally in 2001 from Africa to a zoo in Taiping, Malaysia, the four gorillas – now about seven years old - have spent the last two years at the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria, South Africa.
 
The decision to return the gorillas to Cameroon became public this week.
 
IFAW today announced their offer to pay for the costs of the transfer of the gorillas to the Limbe Wildlife Centre sanctuary upon their return to Cameroon.
 
“The Government of Malaysia has made the correct decision, based on a thorough review of the facts,” said Jason Bell-Leask, IFAW Director Southern Africa. IFAW is one of a number 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 Cameroon.
 
“All along, we have supported the Government of Cameroon’s right to the return of its natural heritage, and we are pleased these gorillas will finally return home,” said Bell-Leask.
 
“IFAW’s offer to cover the costs of moving the gorillas to Cameroon is being made in the best interests of the welfare of the animals and we pledge to work with South African zoo authorities to expedite the safe return of the gorillas.
 
“We are working with wildlife, conservation and welfare groups and have begun preparations for the gorilla’s return taking every possible precaution to ensure the gorilla’s health and safety.”
 
Leading animal welfare and conservation groups have applauded the decision by the Government of Malaysia to return four Western Lowland gorillas to Cameroon.
 
Gorillas are highly endangered and could be extinct in the wild within 50 years, according to experts. These four gorillas were captured from the wild as infants, and then exported to the Taiping Zoo in Malaysia through South Africa using forged travel permits.
 
When the illegal transaction was uncovered, the Government of Malaysia sent the gorillas to the Pretoria zoo, although it retained practical “ownership” of the animals. But the Government of Cameroon began a series of formal requests for the gorillas’ return in 2002, and, after two separate DNA tests confirmed their country of origin, the Malaysian authorities decided to comply.
 
Malaysia informed South African officials of the decision in July, and that decision was confirmed by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism last week.

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