Trading Zoo Animals with North Korea
The city of Seoul has suggested that Seoul Grand Park and Pyeong Yang Central Zoo trade primates. While Seoul claims this would expand genetic diversity, it would really be a political move using animals to improve North-South Korean interactions.
To make things worse, North Korea lacks any animal protection laws. It would not be right to send animals to a potentially worse situation in North Korea for merely political reasons. No animals should be traded and treated thus simply to forward a political agenda.
Genetic Diversity Cover-up
When a Siberian tiger from Pyeong Yang Central Zoo and a chimpanzee from Seoul Grand Park were to be traded, a report via AP communications revealed that a 19-year-old chimpanzee, Jindalae, at Pyeong Yang Central Zoo had smoked a pack of cigarettes a day in 2016. From this report, it’s apparent that Pyeong Yang Central Zoo does not take care of its exhibited animals for genetic diversity or species preservation, but for entertainment.
Additionally, out of the 7 chimpanzees at Seoul Grand Park, the identities of the parents for 2 and of the grandparents for 5 them are unknown. To maintain genetic diversity, pedigrees are important. Inter-species breeding is possible among the chimpanzee subspecies, Pan troglodytes troglodytes, Pan troglodytes verus, Pan troglodytes vellerosus, and Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii. If Seoul Grand Park did not conduct mitochondrial DNA analyses due to a lack of lineage information, there is a possibility that the chimps are of mixed species. If animals are traded to expand genetic diversity, it is necessary to identify which subspecies the chimpanzees from Pyeong Yang Central Zoo and Seoul Grand Park belong to. Whether tests were run to validate their exact species or subspecies has not been confirmed.
The city of Seoul had two of the chimpanzees, Yongyongi and Judy, breed, which resulted in the birth of Aza on September 20th, 2017. There has given rise to the suspicion that chimpanzees have been selected to be traded to North Korea because they breed well and are surplus.
Seoul Grand Park’s Remaining Chimpanzee Isolated
Among the 7 chimpanzees at Seoul Grand Park, only 4 socially interact with each other. The other 3, Gapsooni, Gwangboki, and Gwansooni, are taken care of in individual facilities. Gapsooni is at Seoul Grand Park for Children and Gwansooni is with Bomuli the orangutan. Gwangboki, on the other hand, is alone at a facility with only a concrete floor, away from public view. They explained that Gwangboki “failed to interact with others” and thus they separated her, despite the fact that social interactions are important for chimpanzees.
Ensuring Genetic Diversity
Although genetic diversity is being argued, species preservation and animal rights have not been considered. Sincere efforts to maintain genetic diversity do not require caging animals in zoos, but rather preventing the destruction and disappearance of the habitats of wild animals. Sincere efforts to maintain genetic diversity do not involve trading animals, but rather involve North and South Korea making plans to preserve habitats after establishing peaceful diplomatic relations.
If there is no natural habitat for them to return to, zoo animals will simply be transferred from one prison to another.