Tears and Joy as Taiping 4 Gorillas Leave for Cameroon

Thursday, November 29, 2007
Pretoria, South Africa
There were tears of joy and tears of sadness this evening as the Taiping 4 gorillas departed South Africa to go home to Cameroon.
“Overwhelming all though, is the sense that something incredibly important has been achieved today. We’re sending an unequivocal message to those who trade in endangered wildlife that their dreadful activities will no longer be tolerated,” said Christina Pretorius of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (www.ifaw.org).
 
“That is something that all of us can find a real sense of pride in”.
 
The return marks the end of a five-year saga surrounding the gorillas – nicknamed the Taiping Four – which became ensnared in the politics of several nations, international law, and, along the way, became a high profile example of the rampant illegal trade in endangered species.
 
The gorillas, a male and three females, first made international headlines in 2002 after being smuggled to Malaysia using forged documents. DNA tests later confirmed that the animals were captured from the wild in Cameroon prior to being exported to Malaysia. In 2004, after being confiscated by Malaysian authorities, they were sent for safekeeping to the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa in Pretoria where they have remained since.
 
Over the last five years IFAW has represented the ngo community including the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), the International Primate Protection League (IPPL), the Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA) and the Pandrillus Foundation which have lobbied exhaustively to ensure that the various governments involved uphold the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). 
 
The gorillas, which are approximately six years old, are being sent to the Limbe Wildlife Centre in southwestern Cameroon where they will eventually join the sanctuary’s existing gorilla population and live out the rest of their natural lives.
 
“Africa’s wildlife is disappearing from the earth right in front of our eyes,” said Christina Pretorius of IFAW. “The return of the Taiping Four sends a clear message that Africa’s wildlife is worth fighting for and that international law must be upheld.”
 
Kenya Airways is sponsoring the return of the gorillas and the animals will be traveling on a scheduled flight from Johannesburg, via Nairobi and onto Douala in the Cameroon on Friday.
 
The gorilla’s ground transport to the airport has been kindly provided by Imperial Truck Hire.

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