Kenya denies sanctuary to chimps from Ebola-hit Liberia

Rescued chimp

Two young chimpanzees from Ebola-hit Liberia have been denied sanctuary at a Kenyan wildlife reserve, despite the fact that they have shown no signs of infection with the deadly virus.

The two-year-old female chimps, Sweet Pea and Guey, were rescued from animal traffickers by conservation group, the Project to End Great Ape Slavery (PEGAS), in April. Since then, they have been in the care of volunteers in the Liberian capital of Monrovia, but are now desperately in need of a permanent home.

Earlier this month, Kenya’s top vet rejected a request to move the primates to the country’s renowned wildlife sanctuary, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, due to concerns that they might transmit the Ebola virus.

‘There is a risk for us to import animals from West Africa because of Ebola,’ Kisa Juma Ngeiywa, Kenya’s Director of Veterinary Services, told Reuters. ‘There is no malice. We do not want to endanger the human and the animal populations in this country’.

Daniel Stiles, PEGAS Project Manager, has annouced that the organisation plans to appeal the decision as he believes it has been made ‘without all the information’.

Chimpanzees can contract Ebola but they are not thought to be carriers of the disease, and no symptoms have been observed in either Sweet Pea or Guey.

One of several experts consulted by PEGAS, Dr Mike Cranfield, a primatologist and veterinarian from Gorilla Doctors, said: ‘Chimpanzees and gorillas are just as susceptible as humans and so if the animals were exposed to the Ebola virus they would either be dead or have survived the disease and therefore pose no more threat than humans who have recovered from the disease, which is considered nil.’

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recorded around 27,000 cases and more than 11,000 deaths from Ebola in the three West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, since the recent outbreak began. Liberia was declared Ebola-free by the WHO in May, although there have been some reported cases since then.