Appeal to save Korean flora, fauna

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at
Tue Apr 25 19:25:59 PDT 2000

Thursday 20 April 2000

Appeal to save Korean flora, fauna SEOUL: A South Korean ecologist appealed Wednesday for the governments of the rival Koreas to cooperate to preserve endangered species of animals and plants on their heavily fortified border. Kim Kwi-gon, a professor at Seoul National University, made the appeal after publishing a report that said at least 687 species of rare animals and plants inhabit the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ. The U.N.-funded report said the enriched ecosystem in the Korean DMZ, which has been mostly uninhabited for a half century, provides sanctuary for many animal and plant species which are threatened with extinction. In a diplomatic breakthrough, the Koreas agreed last week to hold the first-ever summit between their leaders in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang in June. "The upcoming summit between the two Koreas probably can open the way for them to cooperate in one harmless, uncontentious area - ecological preservation," Kim said. The summit, Kim said, could ease tension between the two Koreas so that they start programs to preserve the border ecosystem. The report was funded by the U.N. Development Program and prepared on the basis of 40 field surveys on the DMZ over four years starting in 1996. The DMZ is a 250 kilometer-(150 mile)-long and 4 kilometer-(2.5 mile)-wide buffer zone which was created at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The southern half of the zone is controlled by the American-led U.N. Command and the northern half by communist North Korea. Kim said he was able to visit only one-third of the U.N.-controlled DMZ. But he said the ecological system in the northern half of the buffer is believed to be the same as in the south. Kim said the armistice which has been rigidly enforced for nearly a half century has helped preserve the DMZ's rich ecosystem. It also provides wintering grounds for two of the world's most endangered birds - the white-naped crane and red-crowned crane. Other endangered birds in the area include the Chinese egret, black-faced spoonbill, swan goose and spotted greenshank, he said. Kim's report also said a reservoir and a river flowing through the DMZ should be designated as "wetlands of international importance" for rare birds.(AP) For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service
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