Harare (AFP) May 19, 2010
Zimbabwe is set to export elephants, giraffes, zebras and other wildlife to North Korea, which the country's national parks boss defended Wednesday as "legitimate trade".
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 judgment, 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."
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 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.
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.
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