Wildlife Vs. War: Who Wins On The DMZ Zone?

What separates North and South Korea? Most folks would say "the DMZ Zone."

However, what about this statement?: "150- by 2.5-mile area created in 1953 is now home to more than 100 endangered & protected species." Well, the fact is it's a statement and not a question because it was the 'Final Jeopardy' clue for the category of "Asian Geography' on February 2, 2020.

This allowed Travis Gaylord, an emergency medicine physician from Wynnewood, PA to be the only contestant who rang in with the 'right question.' By answering "What is the DMZ Zone" he became the champ of the day, allowing him to continue his championship run on February 3.

DMZ Zone

The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a region on the Korean peninsula that was established by the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement that ended the 3-year Korean War. It is the de facto border between North and South Korea, and by happy coincidence, it became a territory that helps conserve endangered and protected species, as well as other wildlife.

According to a Business Insider article, "Over 91 endangered species have called this unique biome home. You can find everything there from wild cats to Siberian tigers, black bears to red-crowned cranes. This is partly because the DMZ runs across a wide range of habitats, which includes mountains, marshes, swamps, and prairies.”

Threat to Wildlife?

The big question here is how did wildlife take up residence where heretofore two countries were in brutal conflict. Well, as one of the obvious consequences, without human intervention on the DMZ, animals are not up against a threat. Or are they?

First proposed in 1966 as a national park, media mogul Ted Turner took the lead in 2005 and proclaimed: "The DMZ needs to be designated as a World Heritage Site and as a World Peace Park site because we've got to preserve it from development."

Most recently, South Korea wanted to zone it as an official UNESCO recognized biosphere. The North, however, halted this plan, because they said it violated their Korean Armistice Agreement.

When the two nations put an 'official end to warfare, trade and travel in the DMZ could become a tourism mecca. With that type of commercial enterprise, the existing animals would be forced to engage with humans, find other habitats, or perish in the process. This happens when human infrastructure is built and separates animals from their natural habitats. This is similar to how Los Angeles is threatened by its mountain lion population.

Building factories and connecting railways inside the demilitarized zone is like building a factory in the middle of the Alps or Montmartre,” said Kim Sung-ho, the head of DMZ Ecology Research Institute, a nonprofit organization based a few miles south of the inter-Korean border.

Final Thoughts

Careful precautions need to be put into place to reduce future threats to the animals. This would provide animals to freely roam across the heritage site while still giving the North and South Koreans access.

As the DMZ turns 67 years, by transitioning the site into a sustainable ecotourism operation, there are other models existing around the world that are successful and allow for human and animal engagement.

Ecotourists in Rwanda pay $1,500 for gorilla trekking permits, which allow them to hike and get up close and personal with the great apes for just one hour each day. Additionally, there are other benefits to hotels, restaurants, and transportation companies to create eco-friendly packages.

Existing safeguards have helped to slow the loss of endangered species from the zone. This initiative needs continued support, when and if both countries decide to officially end the war.

Both governments need to preserve the DMZ environment, which would serve as a model of conservation for North and South Korea. And as far as Jeopardy's Final Challenge question noting that this stretch of land is housing 100 endangered and protected species — in total, the island is home to an additional 2000 wildlife species — that hopefully will stay off the protected or endangered lists of the future, depending what is done to their habitats.

Siberian tiger

Primary Source: Business Insider