Kenya rejected a request to bring two young chimpanzees rescued in Ebola-hit Liberia to a Kenyan wildlife sanctuary due to fears about the deadly virus.
Nearly 11,200 people died due to Ebola in the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea since 2013. The World Health Organization declared Liberia Ebola-free in May, but there have been some new cases since then.
"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 population in this country."
The two-year-old female chimps, Sweet Pea and Guey, were handed over to conservationists in April, and have been cared for by volunteers in the Liberian capital Monrovia.
But they said its time to find a permanent home for the animals and Kenya's renowned Ol Pejeta Conservancy is the only sanctuary with space.
"The consequences of bringing Ebola into the country would be devastating and obviously nobody wants to risk that," said Daniel Stiles, a project manager at the Kenyan conservancy who helped rescue one of the animals. "My view is, Kenya has made the decision without all the information."
"We don't know of any other sanctuary that would take them," he said, adding that he hoped to appeal the decision.
Even though Kenya is thousand miles away from the Ebola-hit countries, tourism sector took a hit last year from global fear about Ebola.
Chimpanzees from West and Central Africa are often sold to Chinese zoos and private estates in the Middle East. But since Ebola was first reported in West Africa, buyers have mostly been scared off, as chimps - man's closest animal relatives - can carry the deadly virus.