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Uganda wants to sell endangered chimpanzees to China.

KAMPALA, Jan. 22 Kyodo

A proposal by the Ugandan Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities to export three chimpazees to China's Changshaa Zoo in Hunan Province has raised concerns with environmental conservationists.

The proposal could lead to fears that Uganda's name as a protector of great apes could be tarnished with the consequent loss of tourism and donor funding.

A committee set up by the ministry last week met with officials of Uganda Wildlife Authority and endorsed the deal to export the chimps to China.

The chimps will be obtained from Ngamba Island sanctuary, a tourist destination on Lake Victoria, where chimps rescued from smugglers and poachers are being kept. About 30 chimps are kept at the sanctuary which was established through assistance from the U.S.-based Jane Goodall Institute.

If the export project proceeds as planned, the chimps will be exported to China in March.

Wildlife conservationists are concerned that the chimps are endangered animals and would be mistreated in China. Statistics indicate that the chimp population in Uganda has been reduced to 5,000 from 100,000 in 1900.

They argue that it is unnecessary to take wild chimps to zoos since many chimpanzees bred in captivity are available.

Debbie Cox, executive director of the Jane Goodall Institute's Uganda office, said that Uganda, recently elected to represent Africa on the U.N. Great Ape Survival Project, would dent its honor and jeopardize the prestigious appointment.

Andrew Plumptre of the Wildlife Conservation Society said the export would reflect negatively on Uganda, especially at the time when Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni had just marketed the country through a documentary on Discovery Channel in the United States featuring chimps.

It is not yet clear what Uganda would get for the three chimps but there is speculation that the chimps would be swapped with three salt water dolphins.

Betty Kamya, executive director of Uganda Wildlife Educations Centre, defended the chimp export project but said animal rights activists should raise their concerns with the committee which is handling the export project.

''If their concerns are genuine then they will be considered. As long as we are not undermining the conservation of animals, their welfare and the laws, there is no problem with taking the animals to China,'' she said.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Jan 26, 2004
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