"These animals belong to Zimbabweans. North Korea has a low track record of looking after animals and we can't have our animals living in cages....We should be working on a plan to improve our tourism and we have such a plan. We cannot export the beauty of our country to other countries. What will future generations have if we export our heritage?"
The Zimbabwe government has aborted a wildlife trade deal with the secretive Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) amid widespread condemnation from pressure groups, the Zimbabwe Independent has learned.
Sources close to the development said the planned shipment of $23,000 worth of wildlife to the DPRK in a deal conservationists termed President Robert Mugabe's "Noah's Ark". It has been blocked after local and international natural resources campaigners criticised the destined living conditions of the animals at Pyongyang Zoo.
Pressure groups had protested against the deal saying the Asian country did not have a secure habitat for the game after the Parks and Wildlife Authority made public its intention to export the animals to Pyongyang.
North Korea had ordered several species, including elephant, giraffe, jackal, zebra, catfish, civet, blue monkey and spotted hyena.
Parks and Wildlife Authority spokesperson, Caroline Washaya-Moyo, yesterday could not confirm or deny the cancellation of the deal.
"We are not in a position to issue a statement as of now," she said.
But sources said the deal fell through after scientists sent to Hwange National Park concluded that the animals would not be able to adjust to new conditions.
The sources said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has now been tasked with formally informing the DPRK of Zimbabwe's decision to cancel the deal.
Apart from the DPRK deal, the wildlife authority said it was considering applications from five other countries willing to buy Zimbabwe's wildlife.
Johnny Rodrigues, chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Taskforce, a local natural resources watchdog, said the animals would have succumbed to DPRK conditions had the deal gone ahead.
"These animals belong to Zimbabweans. North Korea has a low track record of looking after animals and we can't have our animals living in cages," Rodrigues said. "We should be working on a plan to improve our tourism and we have such a plan. We cannot export the beauty of our country to other countries. What will future generations have if we export our heritage?"
Conservationists also say Zimbabwe cannot export game at a time when poaching is rampant.
A report released in February by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species claimed the involvement of Zimbabwean security forces in the killing of 200 rhinos in the past two years.