Goodwill gift of kangaroos to twin city turns sour
A GIFT of two dozen kangaroos from Australia's Brisbane to a safari park in its twin city, Shenzhen, has been put on hold because of a political row over possible maltreatment of the marsupials.
Bosses at a wildlife sanctuary on Australia's Gold Coast say the 24 kangaroos cannot be shipped because of health restrictions, but a senior Brisbane politician says the real reason is fears over animal cruelty.
Shenzhen Government's Sister City Division confirmed it was in negotiations with Brisbane but said it had no idea when the problem would be resolved.
A spokesman for the division suggested the delay may be linked to health tests.
A deal to ship the kangaroos to Shenzhen's Xili Safari Park two months ago was signed in December 1996, but the project was abruptly halted when negative reports linking the park to animal cruelty appeared in Australian newspapers.
Australian government officials had given the park the thumbs up but June O'Connell, opposition leader of the Brisbane City Council, is now seeking another assurance that the park will be safe for them.
She is also worried that the council may have soured a thriving twin-city arrangement by causing the delay and putting the Chinese in an embarrassing position.
'It is probably a response to public pressure, as there are considerable concerns by animal rights groups that the kangaroos will be maltreated and used for entertainment.
'I don't oppose sending the kangaroos to China - the Chinese people should have a chance to see the animals.
'But the Brisbane City Council must confirm the kangaroos will be properly cared for and maintained in a suitable environment where they can be viewed by the public,' she said.
Currumbin Sanctuary operations manager Glen Russell insisted: 'It is a pure animal health issue; it has nothing to do with politics.' He said the problem concerned the two authorities' regulations.
The mainland insists on a rabies test which is not available in Australia and demands the animals be ringworm free, a disease considered minor by Australia.
Ms O'Connell is not convinced that health concerns alone are behind the hold-up.
'The decision to give 24 kangaroos to the city of Shenzhen was made on December 16, 1996. Why didn't they settle all the health issues in the first place?' she asked.