Monday, 13 May 2019

Rare black bear seen in no-go zone between North and South Korea

Find shows ecological value of demilitarised zone after decades cut off from humans

Daniel Hurst in Tokyo

Fri 10 May 2019 14.27 BSTLast modified on Fri 10 May 2019 18.20 BST

When an unmanned camera captured movement inside the demilitarised zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea, it wasn’t a sign of troops on the march. Instead, photographs released this week show a rare black bear clambering on rocks next to a peaceful stream.

The animal has been identified as an Asiatic black bear, a species that is native to parts of Asia including the Korean peninsula and is classified as “vulnerable” on the Red List of Threatened Species compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Experts say the discovery underlines the ecological importance of a region that is largely cut off from human observation because of landmines and long-running tensions between the two Koreas.

In South Korea, the Asiatic black bear was nearly eradicated before the government launched a recovery programme 15 years ago. The number of these bears in South Korea has increased from five in 2001 to 61 now, according to figures cited by the Yonhap news agency.

Information about the status of threatened species within the DMZ, however, is harder to collect.

“The ecological value of the Korean DMZ has been documented for several decades as many scientists in Korea and from around the world have researched the region,” explains Seung-ho Lee, the president of the DMZ Forum, a group that campaigns to protect the area’s ecosystem.

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