SEOUL, South Korea – The divided Koreas will exchange zoo animals for the first time to help preserve species endangered on the peninsula split by the world's most heavily fortified border.
Seoul Grand Park Zoo (search) said Wednesday that it will send five mating pairs of animals to the North's Pyongyang Central Zoo (search). North Korea will receive hippopotamuses, red kangaroos, wallabies, guanacos and llamas in return for sending 16 animals including lynx, coyotes, Siberian weasels, African ponies and Asiatic black bears.
The South has previously sent two tigers to the North, but the exchange set for Thursday is the first time the North agreed to send its animals to the South, said Seoul Grand Park Zoo spokesman Kang Hyung-ok.
The animal give-and-take will be held at the Kaesong Industrial Complex (search), a joint economic zone run by both Koreas in North Korea just across the Demilitarized Zone.
Kang said the animals will undergo quarantine inspections and genetic tests before crossing at the Dorasan checkpoint. The North has recently acknowledged an outbreak of bird flu in the country and said it slaughtered some 210,000 chickens.
The two Koreas technically at war since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, but exchanges between the countries have increased in recent years and continue despite an ongoing international standoff over the North's nuclear weapons ambitions.