Taiping Four gorillas leave South Africa next week

Monday, December 4, 2006
Cape Town, South Africa
The Taiping 4 gorillas are set to depart for the Cameroon on 13 December 2006, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW - www.ifaw.org) and the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (NZG of SA – www.zoo.ac.za) have announced.
“The gorillas and their caregivers depart for Cameroon on a scheduled Kenya Airways flight early on the morning of 13 December 2006,” says Christina Pretorius, Communications Manager for IFAW Southern Africa.
 
The gorillas are to be transferred to the Limbe Wildlife Centre in the Cameroon. The NZG of SA is currently hosting Jonathan Kum Kang, Limbe’s chief keeper and he is working closely alongside the National Zoo’s primate staff charged with the care of the Taiping Four. This forms an integral part of an acclimatization process.
 
“Two of the National Zoo’s gorilla keepers will also travel to the Cameroon with these animals to help them get settled in to their new home. This will also form part of a skills sharing and information process between the National Zoo and the staff at Limbe,” said Dr Gerhard von Gruenewaldt, the Interim Executive Director of the NZG of SA.
 
“The Taiping Four have captured the hearts of the people of Pretoria with their antics and their visible affinity for humans. It will indeed be a sad day for us to have them leave,” says Dr Von Gruenewaldt.
 
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 gorillas 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 had been 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 protocol 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.
 
The Government of the Cameroon began a series of formal requests to have the gorillas returned to them in 2002. Earlier this year, after independent DNA sampling commissioned by the NZG of SA confirmed that the Cameroon was the most likely place of origin of the gorillas, Malaysia informed South African officials of their decision to transfer the gorillas.
 
Kenya Airways is subsidizing the transport of the gorillas and their caregivers on a scheduled flight via Nairobi, and onto Douala in the Cameroon on 13 December 2006.
 
Joyce Aleksic, Sales & Marketing Manager for South Africa for Kenya Airways, says the airline is ready to help.
 
“The transportation of animals is an extremely emotive issue for all concerned, and the staff of Kenya Airways is becoming particularly adept at ensuring the safe passage of this special cargo. We work closely with the experts traveling with the animals, adding substantially to our knowledge base with each experience. We are proud to be involved with IFAW,” she said.

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