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IFAW's Sarah Scarth:
"I don't believe these animals have more than a few weeks to live"
 real 28k

Friday, 19 November, 1999, 13:50 GMT
Animal airlift planned for Congo
The airlift would take the chimps to Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage in Zambia

Animal rights activists have drawn up a plan to airlift more than 100 animals on the brink of starvation out of a zoo in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare has asked the South African Government to help secure the release of the animals to wildlife reserves in southern Africa.

Animals including leopards and bears have already died at the zoo and IFAW say a group of 12 chimpanzees currently housed in filthy cages could be eaten by Congolese citizens, or else die of starvation.

More than 150 of Kinshasa Zoological Gardens' 275 original animals have died since last year.

The zoo's surviving collection includes leopards, crocodiles, pythons, antelopes, monkeys and baboons, as well as some domestic creatures.

Bureaucracy block

The animal welfare group says it has the funding and the expertise to undertake the delicate operation to move them, but it says it is being blocked by the bureaucracy of Congolese Government.

Three chimps have died in recent weeks
It wants the South African Government to use its diplomatic contacts with the Congolese administration to speed up the processing of any paperwork required to airlift the animals out of Kinshasa.

Sarah Scarth, IFAW's South African director, says that food shortages in Kinshasa mean that many of the animals in the city zoo could die within weeks.

"The simple truth is we do not have the luxury of time, these animals will die without help," she said.

Battle for the heart of Africa
"The chimpanzees in particular are suffering terribly. With food being so few and far between, if we don't move quickly I don't think these animals are going to be there by the end of the year."

A potential home has already been found for the 12 chimpanzees at a special reserve in northern Zambia.

But while their fate hangs in the balance, they are being cared for by a Congolese zoo keeper who feeds them by collecting waste food from hotels and businesses in Kinshasa.

There are said to be few obvious signs of Congo's civil war on the streets of the Kinshasa, but the 16 months of fighting have had a devastating impact on the economy.

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See also:
11 Jul 99 |  Africa
Elephant abuse sparks protest
11 Nov 99 |  Crossing continents
Kinshasa's music, Congo's war
07 Nov 99 |  Africa
Congo ceasefire in jeopardy
20 May 99 |  Africa
Farmers want baboon on the menu

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