Korean demilitarized zone has become pristine wildlife habitat
Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com
November 17, 2008
For the first time since the DMZ was negotiated a research team has surveyed the portions of the area to study its wildlife and ecosystems. Composed of environmental scientists, historians, and culture experts, the team surveyed 563 miles of the DMZ, including six streams, 37 mountains, and 32 wetlands.
"They used to be farming and residential areas, however, since human access has been restricted for the past 55 years, they have now become home to 50 animal and 12 plant species. The region crystallizes the changing patterns of nature," Prof. Kim Kwi-gon of Seoul National University, who heads the project, told The Korea Times.
North and South Korea. courtesy of Google Earth
Landmines are the greatest threat to animals in the region, especially larger mammals like the mule deer. However, the mines are a smaller threat than the possibility of human development, which could occur if no protection plans are drawn up for the area.
For this reason South Korean officials are hoping to make a portion of the DMZ into a bio-diverse peace park through the U.N Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (more popularly known as UNESCO). There is also a belief that such a park could improve relations between South and North Korea and provide an appealing destination for eco-tourists.
The team of scientists will continue surveying the DMZ for wildlife until 2010.