Mugabe's 'Noah's Ark' gift for North Korea
Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe has ordered that two of every animal species in the Hwange National Park be sent to North Korea as a gift to that country's leader, Kim Jong Il.
Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force chairman Johnny Rodrigues said the animals had already been captured and were being kept in a boma in the park, waiting to be flown to North Korea.
Neither the Zimbabwean government, nor the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority of Zimbabwe, was willing to comment.
An official of the North Korean embassy in Harare, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he was not aware of the intended transfer of the animals.
"Maybe this is a private arrangement," he said. "All I know is that the laws in Korea on the transportation of wildlife are very strict."
According to Rodrigues, two elephants, aged 18 months, and other species had been captured.
"We have received information that there are wild animals that have been captured by the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority of Zimbabwe. Although the intention of capturing these animals is still unknown, we gather the animals are expected to be flown to North Korea. They will form part of a gift from the president.
"Capturing animals is an internationally condemned practice. Capturing animals for purposes of using them as a gift is rather a sad development, given the drop in number of animal species in the area," said Rodrigues.
"Elephants, especially baby elephants, cannot survive when they are removed from their family. It will be hard for these elephants and any other animals to survive the airlift operation. It will be pretty difficult for them to cope with the new environment."
Previously, two rhinos, a male known as Zimbo and a female called Zimba, given to the North Korean leader in the 1980s by Mugabe, died only a few months after relocation.