LETTER : The Zoo and BSE

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The Independent Online
From Ms Alexandra Dixon

Sir: Hazel Lye's letter (25 October) asks whether animals bred by London Zoo and released into the Middle East and Africa could be contaminated with BSE. This is an issue which we take very seriously, particularly as misinformation on the subject can have long-term and damaging consequences.

The Scimitar-horned oryx sent to Tunisia in 1985 were not bred by us, although we co-ordinated the project from the British side. These animals are contained within a fenced reserve and there is no reported evidence, 10 years later, of BSE. Of the reintroduction programmes in the Middle East, only the Arabian oryx project in Saudi Arabia received any animals from the UK. These were exactly three in 1989 - all males who were identified as important genetic stock. None of the UK animals has been released into the wild, their progeny are known and monitored and there has been to our certain knowledge absolutely no sign of BSE. However, because we are just as concerned as everyone else (if not more so), we decided three years ago not to export any more oryx from the UK until the epidemiology of the disease is better understood.

With regard to the gazelle releases, contrary to some of the press reports these animals were all born in Saudi Arabia to animals that had never left Saudi Arabia. This was made absolutely clear in the press release. BSE has never been found in gazelles in any case.

Yours faithfully,

Alexandra Dixon


Conservation and Consultancy

The Zoological Society

of London

London, NW1

9 November