The Straits Times
Published on Sep 09, 2012

Threat to wildlife haven in 'scariest place on Earth'


JEJU, South Korea (AFP) - An unlikely and unique cradle of biodiversity that runs the length of the world's most heavily-militarised border is being threatened by encroaching development, conservation experts say.

Once described by former United States president Bill Clinton as "the scariest place on Earth", the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) that divides the Korean peninsula between North and South was created after the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Four kilometres wide and 248km long, it is a depopulated no-man's land of heavily-fortified fences and bristling with the landmines and listening posts of two nations that technically remain at war. As a military buffer zone, it remains an area of profound Cold War hostility, but its man-made isolation has also created an accidental park recognised as one of the most well-preserved, temperate habitats on Earth.

Cutting across mountains, prairies, swamps, lakes and tidal marshes, it has become a protected home for an astonishing variety of plants and animals, including 82 endangered species such as the red-crowned crane and the Amur leopard.