News24

Zim exports wildlife to N Korea

2010-05-19 22:51

Harare - Zimbabwe is set to export elephants, giraffes, zebras and other wildlife to North Korea, which the country's national parks boss defended on Wednesday as "legitimate trade".

The two 18-month-old elephants, in quarantine in holding pens in western Zimbabwe, were priced at $10 000 each.

North Korean zoos were paying $900 for a giraffe and $600 for a zebra. The cheapest on the North Korean shopping list were a blue crane, a saddle-billed stork and a white pelican for $10 each.

Conservationists have raised concerns that the animals might not survive in Stalinist North Korea. In the 1980s Zimbabwe sent a pair of rhinos to North Korea, but they reportedly died a few months later.

"From our professional judgement, these people have the capacity to handle these animals. This is a legitimate business trade," national parks chief Vitalis Chadenga told a news conference.

"Zimbabwe is allowed to export throughout the world to appropriate destinations," he said.

"We have satisfied ourselves in terms of (North Korea's) application that we are dealing with a business arrangement, which we are quite happy to embrace."

Dassies too

In addition to the pairs of elephants, giraffes and zebras, North Korea has also bought couples of jackals, rock hyrax (known as dassies), blue monkeys, spotted hyenas, blue cranes, warthogs and catfish.

Chadenga said North Korea was paying for the animals as well as meeting the capture and translocation costs. No provisions of international law on trade in endangered species were breached, he added.

He said Zimbabwe has five other applications to buy wildlife currently under consideration.

"It's not an illegal shipment. We also have five applications which we are considering from Mozambique, Japan and three other countries," he said.

The independent Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force has criticised the airlift.

"We understand North Korea does not have a good record in animal rights. These animals should not be taken out of their natural habitat," Johnny Rodrigues, head of the task force, said on Wednesday.

Zimbabwe's long-ruling President Robert Mugabe has close ties with Pyongyang.

North Korea trained the Zimbabwe army's infamous Fifth Brigade, which is accused of killing around 20 000 minority Ndebeles between 1984 and 1987.

North Korea's football team is also expected to train in Zimbabwe for two weeks before the World Cup in neighbouring South Africa.