Google Road View photographs: Koreas’ DMZ has change into a wildlife haven



Between North and South Korea lies the demilitarized zone (DMZ), one of many world’s most closely armed borders. The 160-mile stretch is barred with fences and landmines and is basically empty of human exercise.

However that isolation has inadvertently turned the realm right into a haven for wildlife. Google launched road view photographs of the DMZ for the primary time this week, providing a uncommon glimpse into the natural world that inhabit this no man’s land.

The pictures are a part of a mission finished in collaboration with a number of Korean establishments to mark the seventieth anniversary of the Korean Battle armistice, which introduced hostilities to a halt in 1953 and mapped out the DMZ, although technically the battle by no means ended as no peace treaty was ever signed.

The mission permits viewers to take a “digital tour” with Google’s road view operate, highlighting cultural relics and heritage websites close to the DMZ resembling war-torn buildings and protection bunkers.

However essentially the most stunning photographs are of the greater than 6,100 species thriving within the DMZ, starting from reptiles and birds to vegetation.

Of Korea’s 267 endangered species, 38% dwell within the DMZ, based on Google.

“After the Korean Battle, the DMZ had minimal human interference for over 70 years, and the broken nature recovered by itself,” it stated on its web site. “Consequently, it constructed up a brand new ecosystem not seen across the cities and has change into a sanctuary for wildlife.”

The DMZ’s inhabitants embody endangered mountain goats who dwell within the rocky mountains; musk deer with lengthy fangs who dwell in old-growth forests; otters who swim alongside the river working via the 2 Koreas; and endangered golden eagles, who usually spend their winters in civilian border areas the place residents feed the hungry hunters.

Mountain goats mainly live in the rocky, mountainous areas around the DMZ.

Lots of the photographs have been captured by unmanned cameras put in by South Korea’s Nationwide Institute of Ecology. In 2019, these cameras photographed a younger Asiatic black bear for the primary time in 20 years – delighting researchers lengthy involved with the endangered inhabitants’s decline as a consequence of poaching and habitat destruction.

Seung-ho Lee, president of the DMZ Discussion board, a bunch that campaigns to guard the realm’s ecological and cultural heritage, informed CNN in 2019 that the DMZ had additionally change into an oasis for migratory birds due to worsening circumstances on both facet of the border. Logging and flooding had broken North Korean land, whereas city growth and air pollution had fragmented habitats in South Korea, he stated.

“We name the area an unintended paradise,” he stated on the time.

The Hantan River Gorge, with water flowing from Mount Jangamsan.

The Google photographs additionally present pristine, biodiverse landscapes. Customers can use road view to discover the Yongneup excessive moor, boasting large grassy fields full of wetland vegetation, or the Hantan River Gorge, with turquoise water snaking between excessive granite partitions.

Many voices in each the Koreas and worldwide environmental organizations have been calling for the conservation of the DMZ for many years. However the course of isn’t simple, because it requires cooperation from each Seoul and Pyongyang.

The Heloniopsis tubiflora fuse, a plant endemic to South Korea, pictured in Yongneup in the DMZ.

There was some progress lately, with former South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean chief Kim Jong Un vowing in 2018 to show the DMZ right into a “peace zone.” The next yr, South Korea opened the primary of three “peace trails” for a restricted variety of guests alongside the DMZ, bringing hikers previous observatories and barbed-wire fences.

Nonetheless, relations have deteriorated since then, with tensions skyrocketing in 2022 as North Korea fired a report variety of missiles, and as a brand new South Korean president took workplace.


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