AR-News: No sanctuary for "Taiping Four" gorillas - they're going back to South Africa!

Shirley McGreal smcgreal at ippl.org
Wed Jul 9 10:28:35 EDT 2003


The Star, Malaysia          Wednesday, July 09, 2003

'Zoo knew baby gorillas were illegally sourced'

PUTRAJAYA: Preliminary investigations by the Wildlife and National Park
Department revealed the Taiping Zoo knew the four baby gorillas it brought
in last April were illegally sourced and not obtained from a captive bred
centre in Nigeria as claimed.

Science, Technology and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Law Hieng Ding said
he suspected the export permit issued by the Nigerian Cites (Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species) management authority too had been
forged.

"It had been brought to my attention that the University of Ibadan
Zoological Gardens does not have any breeding programme for gorillas.

"We will get to the bottom of this controversy that had tarnished the
country's image as a responsible member of Cites.

"I will not leave any stone unturned as it seems some parties had
deliberately misled me into signing the import permit for the animals under
the pretext of animal exchange. This means I could have been cheated," said
a visibly upset Law yesterday.

He said he had asked the Taiping Zoo for a full report.

"We want to hear their explanation before we make any final judgment.

"We want to know who is the real culprit. It is certainly not us (at the
ministry level). We had acted responsibly," he said, referring to his order
for a probe after the transaction was exposed by the International Primate
Protection League.

He said the letter was sent two weeks ago but the zoo had yet to respond.

Gorillas are one of the four endangered great apes listed under Cites, which
prohibits any trade of the species caught from the wild. But the convention
allows strictly regulated trade if the animal is obtained from captive bred
facilities.

     ----

BBC NEWS          Wednesday, 9 July, 2003, 05:59 GMT 06:59 UK

Malaysia aims to end ape row
By Jonathan Kent, BBC Kuala Lumpur correspondent

The Malaysian Government has approved plans to transfer four illegally
acquired baby gorillas to a zoo in South Africa.

Malaysian Environment Minister Law Hieng Ding said he had been tricked into
signing an import permit for the primates, which were bought by a local zoo
after being caught by smugglers in West Africa.

The case of the Taiping four, as the baby apes became known, had tarnished
the image of Malaysia, Mr Law said.

The gorillas will now be sent to Pretoria Zoo in South Africa, which Mr Law
says is best equipped to care for the animals, who would struggle to survive
if returned to the wild.

Mr Law said he had been duped into signing a trade permit for the animals
because it contained a false declaration that the deal was approved by
CITES, the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species.

Taiping Zoo, in the north of Malaysia, said it had acquired the rare western
lowland gorillas in January last year, through a legitimate swap with a
Nigerian zoo. But experts say the baby gorillas were almost certainly caught
in the wild and their parents killed.

The minister said he intended to track down the culprits, but it appears
that the investigation has made little progress since the government
conceded last October that the deal was illegal.

The case prompted the British authority on primates, Jane Goodall, to write
to Mr Law asking him to intervene and send the baby apes to a wildlife
centre in Cameroon.

Western lowland gorillas are found in the area between the Congo River and
southern Nigeria. The young are dependent on their mothers until four or
five years of age. The primary threat to the species is from man, through
hunting and deforestation.

Dr. Shirley McGreal, Chairwoman
International Primate Protection League
PO Box 766
Summerville, SC 29484, USA
Phone - 843-871-2280, Fax- 843-871-7988
E-mail - smcgreal at ippl.org, Web: www.ippl.org

"He who joyfully marches in rank and file has already earned my contempt. 
He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord 
would suffice."
         --Albert Einstein




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