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IFAW set to return four gorillas to Cameroon

Early Christmas: IFAW set to return four gorillas to Cameroon

(Pretoria, South Africa – 29 November 2007) Last minute preparations are underway for the Taiping 4 Gorillas ahead of their return to Cameroon in the early hours of Friday 30 November.

“The full repatriation team has gathered and is on standby. We will wave the four young gorillas – Tinu, Izan, Oyin and Abbey - goodbye late on Thursday,” said a joint statement from the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (NZG of SA) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org).

The return will effectively mark the end of a five-year saga surrounding the four gorillas. The one male and three female gorillas have made international headlines ever since they were found to have been smuggled to the Taiping Zoo in Malaysia using forged documents in 2002. The gorillas were subsequently confiscated by the Malaysia government and sent for safekeeping to the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, in Pretoria.

“Although the exact circumstances of how the Taiping 4 gorillas were originally captured as infants remain unclear, what is clear is that trade in endangered species and violating the rules of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is fast leading to the extinction of entire species,” said Christina Pretorius of IFAW, Southern Africa.

“The IUCN Red List recently moved the status Western Lowland gorillas from endangered to critically endangered, largely as a result of being hunted, killed and captured for commercial use.”

The gorillas are being sent to the Limbe Wildlife Centre sanctuary, and the NZG of South Africa will send two of its primate keepers to assist in the settling in process in the Cameroon. Limbe staff have worked at the NZG of SA for the past weeks to prepare the gorillas for departure.

“We don’t anticipate any hitches in the coming few days and our veterinary team of experts and gorilla keepers are confident that our work will ensure a seamless return for the gorillas to Cameroon,” said Dr Clifford Nxomani, the Executive Director of the NZG of SA.

The return of the gorillas marks a watershed moment for cooperation between the governments of South Africa, Cameroon and Malaysia, the international NGO community represented by IFAW, and civil society, who have worked closely to resolve the issue of the T4.

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.

ENDS

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