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SOS Rhino : In the News : Wildlife Deal Threatens Crucial Talks

Wildlife Deal Threatens Crucial Talks

  January 27, 2005
Posted to the web January 26, 2005

Richard Chesos

Kenya might lose support to host a crucial international wildlife workshop because of its plans to donate animals to Thailand.

The five-day workshop, set for June 4 at Mount Kenya Safari Lodge, is under "serious" review by Pan Africa Sanctuaries Alliance (Pasa), an umbrella body for wildlife organisations in Africa has said.

"Our members are not comfortable supporting a government that pays such little respect to wildlife, and I feel certain other conservations and environmental groups will follow suit," spokesperson Doug Cress said.

Mr Cress also warned that the donation of 300 animals, including some endangered species would "ultimately damage" Kenya's tourism.

In a letter to Kenya Wildlife Service director Julius Kipng'etich dated yesterday, Mr Cress said his organisation and its members, including Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Kenya, were shocked and dismayed at the move to donate rhino and other wildlife in exchange for tigers and elephant trainers.

"The proposed deal, which presumably was arranged to boost political, trade and tourism prospects with South East Asia, is a tremendous step backwards for Kenyan conservation and will ultimately damage your country's tourism, perhaps fatally," he said.

Acting Tourism and Wildlife minister Raphael Tuju told the Nation on Tuesday that the plans to donate the animals, including some on the endangered list such as the White rhino, cheetah and lion, had not been finalised.

Mr Tuju said the Cabinet was yet to decide whether or not to honour the pledge, adding that the animals could only be donated as a gift from the Government.

The minister admitted that the Thai government had requested for the animals, saying there was nothing wrong with giving them a few those in abundance "in exchange for returns that will directly benefit the people".

But Mr Cress said his organisation would lobby international support to block the deal.

He said similar exchanges between East African and southern Asian governments had been attempted in the past and each prompted international criticism and condemnation.

"If you proceed, this will surely follow suit," he said.

Mr Cress urged KWS to intervene in the planned donation "and fullfill its mandate as a protector of wildlife".

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