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Kenya, Thailand sign wildlife deal
NAIROBI (AFP) Nov 09, 2005
Kenya and Thailand signed an agreement Wednesday to enhance cooperation in wildlife management amid a row over a decision by Kenya to send hundreds of wild animals to a Thai zoo.

Kenyan Tourism and Wildlife Minister Morris Dzoro and Thai Natural Resources and Environment Minister Yongyut Tiyapairat signed a deal pledging "cooperation in the field of park and wildlife management" at a closed-door ceremony in Nairobi, according to a joint statement.

The agreement was signed in the presence of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who arrived here Tuesday for a three-day visit, which was clouded by the wildlife export saga.

The deal, the details of which were not released, came as enraged conservationists renewed a call for Kenya to halt plans to send some 300 animals, including endangered species, to the soon-to-be-opened Mae Hia Safari Park in Thailand's northern Chiang Mai province.

In return for the animals, Kenya would receive expert elephant trainers and one million dollars (8.5 million euros) to boost conservation in the country.

Authorities approved the exports of the 300 animals in July, but a government officials said Friday that the animals earmarked for exports "might be reduced" to slightly above 100.

Various well-placed officials gave different versions of the story owing to the secrecy shrouding the whole deal.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) led the criticicm.

"[Wildlife] is our national heritage and our views, as conservationists, about such a deal have not been sought," IFAW's Elizabeth Wamba told AFP.

IFAW said it wanted to know what species are being exported and how many.

"Our concern is the animal welfare aspect of this move and in this case, the mortality of the wildlife during the capture, the transit and at the destination in Thailand," Wamba said.

Kenya Wildlife Service spokeswoman Connie Maina said she was not informed of the agreement.

Kenya's president and the visiting Thai prime minister said they were committed to strengthening their relationship by expanding trade.

Kibaki invited Thai traders to start manufacturing cheap computers in the east African nation to even out a trade balance that favours Bankgok.

In addition, the two nations signed a deal to establish a joint commission on bilateral cooperation, which will address both the deadly HIV/AIDS virus and the achievement of key development goals.

The Thai prime minister is scheduled to leave Kenya on Thursday for Ankara.

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