North Korea Seeks Giant Rabbits for Meat Production to Alleviate Food Shortage

Friday , January 12, 2007




A German pensioner who won a prize and worldwide fame for breeding his country’s largest rabbit — Robert, a 10.5kg (23lb) bruiser the size of a dog — has been offered an unusual opportunity to exploit his talents overseas.

Karl Szmolinsky has been given a contract by North Korea to supply giant rabbits to help to boost meat production in the reclusive Communist country, which is suffering severe food shortages. The only problem is that such huge rabbits consume vast quantities of food themselves as they grow.

Szmolinsky, from Eberswalde, in the east of Germany, was contacted by the North Korean Embassy in Berlin in October after Robert attracted press coverage. “They want to boost meat production. They’ve arranged for me to go to Pyongyang in April to advise them on setting up a breeding farm,” Szmolinsky, who is 68 next month, told The Times.

He breeds German gray giants, which are among the world’s biggest rabbits, and sells his annual crop of 60 to 80 to other breeders in Germany. He said that an attaché at the embassy came to his home and asked to see his rabbits. The diplomat was so impressed that he placed an order for eight females and four males, which were shipped to North Korea a few weeks later.

Robert was among the first consignment. “I don’t know how many more they want and whether I’ll be getting any more orders,” Szmolinsky said.

He has also received a request for rabbits from a Chinese buyer. He said he believed that the monster bunny program — one rabbit yields 7kg (15lb) of meat — was aimed at feeding the North Korean people rather than the “Dear Leader”, Kim Jong Il, who is said to favor lobster.

The embassy in Berlin could not be reached for comment, but the state-run news agency reported in September that people were being encouraged to breed rabbits for food.

Szmolinsky’s 12 rabbits, which are awaiting his arrival at a petting zoo in Pyongyang, could produce 60 babies in a year. They are unlikely to alleviate the chronic malnutrition endemic in the country of 23 million that drew condemnation when it announced a nuclear test last year.

The rabbits are also voracious eaters, which is why Szmolinsky said that he would not be boosting his own annual production because feeding them would be too expensive.