- The return of the four smuggled Cameroon gorillas on Friday will seal the five-year saga surrounding the issue. The gorillas' return has been confirmed by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
Popularly known as "Taiping 4 Gorillas," the wild animals were smuggled to the Taiping Zoo in Malaysia using forged documents in 2002. The gorillas were subsequently confiscated by the Malaysian government and sent for safekeeping to South Africa's National Zoological Gardens (NZG) in Pretoria.
Sponsored by the Kenyan Airways, the animals will be travelling on a scheduled flight from Johannesburg via Nairobi and then Douala, Cameroon.
They will be sent to the Limbe Wildlife Centre sanctuary. Wildlife experts have been preparing their departure and resettlement processes in South Africa and Cameroon.
"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," IFAW and NZG said in a statement.
"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 realize a seamless return for the gorillas to Cameroon," said Dr. Clifford Nxomani, the Executive Director of the NZG.
"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.
"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."
"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 realize 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 smuggled gorillas.
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