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NatureInterface > No.05 > P060-061 [Japanese]

The Meaning of the 38th Parallel: Bird Migration and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) -- Hiroyoshi Higuchi


The Meaning of the 38th Parallel: Bird Migration and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

HIROYOSHI HIGUCHI (Professor, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo)

The demilitarized zone (DMZ) which separates North and South Korea is an area created by unfortunate human history. Today, the DMZ is known as an important habitat for wild animals, especially for migratory birds such as cranes, geese and waders. As North and South Korea move toward reconciliation, this area 4km wide (2km each in North and South) is the focus of a new and significant concern: environmental conservation.

Satellite tracking of migratory birds shows that the DMZ functions as a secure stopover for cranes in their northward migration, a sanctuary where they stay for several weeks. If the natural habitat of the DMZ is destroyed, the long-distance migration of the cranes becomes quite difficult: they lose not only their stopovers, but also their breeding grounds in Japan, China and Russia.

The extinction of migratory bird species is not a matter of only local concern since the dietary habits of millions of migratory birds play an important role in maintaining the ecosystem along the full extent of the migratory route. The conservation of migratory species therefore differs from standard conservation of wild creatures, and it is of critical importance that researchers and conservationists from various countries such as China and Russia be involved in the conservation of these migratory birds.

Although the natural characteristics of different areas and countries seem to be independent, they are in fact connected through migratory birds. Conservation of migratory birds thus means not only the conservation of particular species but also that of a chain of ecosystems often stretching across great distances, and by extension, that of the environment of the earth as a whole.

Cranes which migrate over the Korean Peninsula are loved by people in Japan, South Korea, North Korea, China and Russia as a symbol of happiness and peace. The conservation of the DMZ habitat together with its cranes and other wild creatures will also be meaningful from an historical viewpoint as a symbol of our determination not to repeat the tragedy of North and South Korea.

(This theme will be explored further in the next issue.)

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