Wildlife Preserve Planned for Korean Demilitarized Zone


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Quasimodo had Notre Dame Cathedral. Where can the planet's threatened biodiversity find sanctuary? Try the most heavily armed border in the world.

One conservation group says that North Korea has taken a first step towards creating a wildlife preserve in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a strip of land that divides the Korean Peninsula and acts as a buffer zone between North and South Korea.Because the area has been all but off limits to people since the fighting ceased in 1953, the 150-mile length of nearly pristine nature shelters a thriving ecosystem, including rare wildlife. Hundreds of bird species spend winter in the heavily mined area, at least two of them endangered: the white-naped and red-crowned cranes.

Fifty types of mammals also pad around within the zone, including the rare Asiatic black bear, Amur leopard and, according to some, the Siberian tiger.

A U.S.-based nonprofit, DMZ Forum, has been campaigning to preserve the DMZ. Last week, it said North Korean authorities has allowed it to set up shop in a 17-acre rice field just north of the DMZ, where volunteers will begin a project to attract the aforementioned red-crowned cranes.

DMZ Forum is currently trying to raise the $400,000 needed to pay for the initiative, said Hall Healy, the organization's interim president, at a news conference in Tokyo. "There is something out there worth saving."

Don't expect to get much else out of the guy, however. Healy declined to give additional details, citing geopolitical sensitivities in dealing with the reclusive North Korean government. "If we could establish an on-the-ground project in North Korea, we could establish trust, contacts and get some-on-the-ground success," he said.

The ambiguity is enough to shoot up some of our internal red flags, but that could just be the paranoia talking. :: International Herald Tribune

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