AR-News: Malaysiakini covers the gorilla scandal

Shirley McGreal smcgreal at
Wed Feb 4 00:16:45 EST 2004

Cameroon wants gorillas back where they belong

Andrew Ong
12:45:35 PM Jan 31, 2004

Cameroon said that the four smuggled gorillas, dubbed the "Taiping Four," 
should be returned to their land of origin and not to a South African zoo.

Cameroonian officials was quoted in a Reuters report as saying that they 
planned to turn the question of relocation of the animals into a "hot 
issue" at the upcoming Convention on International Trade in Endangered 
Species (CITES).

CITES is an international treaty that bans the selling or trading of apes 
caught from the wild, which all four countries involved in the dispute - 
Cameroon, Malaysia, South Africa and Nigeria - are parties to.

In July last year, Science Technology and Environment Minister Law Hieng 
Deng <>announced that 
the four gorillas would be sent to Pretoria Zoo "as soon as possible".

Cameroon, who has long insisted the return of the gorillas, however said 
that if they were sent to Pretoria Zoo, they might only be there temporarily.

"South Africa can go ahead and build the best infrastructure in the world 
and have them for now. Our concern is that in the end they come back to 
Cameroon," said Stephen Takang Ebai, director of wildlife at the Cameroon 
Environment Ministry who was quoted by Reuters.

Consider the alternatives

Responding to questions e-mailed by malaysiakini, International Primate 
Protection League (IPPL) chairperson Shirley McGreal also expressed her 
disapproval for the selection of Pretoria Zoo as the new home for the 

"We don't understand how Pretoria Zoo was selected to receive the gorillas. 
Its record with gorillas is not good (3 of 4 adults dead and 2 out of 2 
babies died)," she said.

"Further, it is the national zoo of South Africa and the gorillas had been 
smuggled through Johannesburg Airport in South Africa and had been carried 
on South African Airways,

"It seems strange to us that Malaysia should decide where the illegally 
obtained animals should go and that it should choose a zoo in a country 
that took part in the original crime,"said McGreal.

She stressed that the IPPL considers the Limbe Wildlife Center in Cameroon 
to be the best place for the gorillas as the center currently keeps 12 
confiscated gorillas in "excellent condition".

McGreal also said that the smuggling of wildlife primate is an 
international crime which is driving certain animals into extinction.

"It is destroying species that have taken millions of years to evolve. In 
the case of gorillas, they only breed every 5-6 years and so, the trade is 

Gorillas near extinction

The four Western lowland gorillas, an endangered species, were believed to 
have been smuggled out via Nigeria.

"The animals were smuggled from Nigeria on documents stating that they were 
all born at the

University of Ibadan Zoo whose only gorilla is a lonely female. An official 
Nigerian Presidential Investigative Commission confirmed that their true 
country of origin was Cameroon," explained McGreal.

They were then brought to Taiping Zoo in Jan 2002, a move which Environment 
Minister Law claimed "some parties had deliberately misled" him into 
signing an import permit containing a false declaration that the purchase 
was approved by CITES.

Taiping Zoo had also earlier 
<>claimed that the 
acquisition of the gorillas was part of an exchange programme and that it 
was not a trade, as they had the documents to support their claim.

An anonymous source from Taiping Zoo told malaysiakini that the gorillas, 
currently aged four to seven, are well nurtured and have adapted well to 
their present environment.

However, the source said that they were unable to exhibit the gorillas due 
to the amount of controversy that surrounds the issue.

A Malaysiakini journalist was not allowed to see the gorillas during a 
visit to the zoo last week.

Dr. Shirley McGreal, Chairwoman
International Primate Protection League
POB 766, Summerville SC 29484-0766, USA
Ph. 843-871-2280 Fax. 843-871-7988
E-mail: smcgreal at, Website

"We need not think alike to love alike."  Francis David

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