AR-News: Smuggled gorillas reach South Africa
smcgreal at ippl.org
Fri Apr 16 01:33:40 EDT 2004
This article is from The Star Online (http://thestar.com.my)
Friday April 16, 2004
Gorillas sent to South Africa
By RASLAN BAHAROM
TAIPING: The four young gorillas illegally sourced from Nigeria have been
safely sent from the Taiping Zoo to Pretoria, South Africa, in a hush-hush
move aimed at dodging the media.
It is learnt that the animals, accompanied by Taiping Municipal Council
president, Datuk Jamalludin Al Amini Ahmad, their keeper, K. Mani, and a
veterinarian, departed on Tuesday.
Council officials declined comment but a source said Jamalludin would
disclose the matter to the media upon his return.
The source said the media had been kept in the dark over the animals'
departure on the instruction of a higher authority.
A check at Mani's home here yesterday confirmed he was away overseas.
A family member who declined to be named said Mani was recently issued with
a passport and had flown abroad on a very secret assignment.
"Ini rahsia besar kerajaan. Tak boleh kasi tahu. Nanti kami susah (This is
a big government secret. We cannot tell. Otherwise we will be in big
trouble)," she said.
Dubbed the Taiping Four, the primates, aged between 14 and 33 months then,
arrived at the Taiping Zoo in January 2002.
They were quarantined for three and a half months and were supposed to be
put on display on May 1.
The zoo cancelled its plans to exhibit the primates following mounting
pressure and queries from the Wildlife and National Parks Department
(Perhilitan) over their acquisition.
Since then the animals were kept in a locked enclosure, away from not only
the media but also visitors.
The acquisition of the baby gorillas also generated unprecedented attention
at the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species conference
in Santiago in November 2002, where a special session was held to discuss them.
Then Science, Technology and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Law Hieng Ding
decided to send the gorillas to South Africa under a bilateral technical
co-operation programme between Perhilitan and the National Zoological
Gardens of South Africa in Pretoria.
Law had said he was misled into signing the import permit, believing that
the animals were imported from a captive-bred facility in Nigeria.
The University of Ibadan Zoological Gardens, the source of the animals, was
questioned by conservationists who had found incriminating evidence of
trafficking and monetary involvement in the so-called animal exchange
programme between the zoos.
In April, the transaction was exposed by the International Primate
Protection League when it disclosed that the Nigerian facility did not have
a breeding programme as stated in the export permit, thus casting doubts on
the legality of the shipment.
It was later revealed that the documents were forged.
Shirley McGreal, Chairwoman, International Primate Protection League
POB 766 Summerville SC 29484 USA
Phone: 843-871-2280 Fax: 843-871-7988
E-mail: smcgreal at ippl.org
Visit IPPL's award-winning web site: <http://www.ippl.org>
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