S. Africa To Return Gorillas To Cameroon
September 14, 2007.
PRETORIA, South Africa - Four gorillas at the center of a five-year international tussle will finally return to Cameroon at the end of November, the South African government said Friday.
The Western Lowland Gorillas, known as the Taiping Four, were illegally smuggled as young animals to Taiping Zoo in Malaysia, via South Africa, using forged documents in 2002.
The Malaysian government sent them back to South Africa in 2004 when they discovered the gorillas were shipped illegally, and they have since been kept at Pretoria's zoo.
Although the circumstances of the gorillas' capture as infants remain uncertain, they were probably victims of the bush meat trade. Typically adult gorillas are killed for meat and their young taken to sell. At least four out of five infants die before they get proper help.
Animal welfare activists have long campaigned for them to be returned to Cameroon but South African zoo officials had claimed that under international law they should remain where they were.
But at a ceremony Friday, government officials said the animals would be returned to Cameroon in the week beginning Nov. 28.
The animals will be sent to Cameroon's Limbe Wildlife Center sanctuary, which has a good record in caring for orphaned gorillas, at the start of the dry season, giving them the best opportunity to adapt to their new home. Gorilla keepers from Limbe and Pretoria will work together to settle them into their new home.
Gorillas are protected from capture, killing or export under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Experts believe that fewer than 100,000 gorillas remain in the wild in West Africa.