What do you get for a fellow despot of an impoverished country? How about a menagerie? Conservation groups are pissed that Zimbabwe is sending North Korea a mini-menagerie–two of every species from Hwange National Park.
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You can only imagine how a nation that can’t provide food and electricity for its own people will treat elephants and lions from Africa. Actually, you don’t have to imagine. Some news reports make it seem ambiguous where they might go. But there’s only one zoo in North Korea and it’s totally sad, crappy, creepy and unaccredited.
“In all probability, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il sanctioned the filming of Fighting Animals, or at least gave it his curious approval – though there is no evidence he was directly involved despite his well-documented interest in filmmaking,” the Asia Times says. “The film’s producers would have needed access to rare and valuable animals and the only place in the country that holds them is the Central Zoo in Pyongyang.”
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Aside from the animal fighting scandal, Lonely Planet says all the animals at the Korea Central Zoo, also known as the Pyongyang Central Zoo, “look pretty forlorn Worst off are the big cats…kept in woefully inadequate compounds.” Visitors also describe and photograph lots of cats and dogs at the zoo. Of course, North Korea has a different way to describe it: “Working people and school youth and children have a pleasant time, seeing animals associated with meaningful stories.” They also report renovations.
Zimbabwe defended the deal as just a business transaction, not political. Is that better? They’re selling two elephants too young to be separated from their mother for $10,000 each, $900 each giraffe, $600 per zebra and then, the AP reports, some cheap birds: $10 each for blue crane, saddle-billed stork and white pelican. The blue crane seems like a real bargain: they’re listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, with only 26,000 left and falling and range maps don’t even show them in Zimbabwe.
The only good thing that can be said of the deal is that wild animals are pretty much doomed under Mugabe anyway. Zimbabwe’s Conservation Task Force explains that Mugabe didn’t just take land from white farmers, he took it from parks and wildlife, too.
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