The incredible nature living in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea 

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To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the armistice between North and South Korea, Google Arts & Culture and South Korean institutions have released some images of the neutral zone, showing how the nearly 257 kilometers separating the two countries, surrounded by fences and landmines, have become a paradise for wildlife.

The photographs were taken by autonomous cameras installed by the National Institute of Ecology and show a multitude of animal species, including cranes, musk deer, bears, otters and mountain goats. In total, some 6,168 species of wild flora and fauna make up the ecosystem, 38% of which are endangered.

Crane

The demilitarized zone is a very important place for cranes, a globally endangered species, to spend the winter. Of the 15 species of cranes in the world, seven are found in Korea, and the most common are the red-crowned crane and the white-necked crane.

Mountain goat

The goats, classified as Natural Monument No. 217 and Class I endangered wildlife, live mainly in the rocky and mountainous areas surrounding the demilitarized zone. They are difficult to see from a distance because of their brownish-gray color and because they blend in with the rocks. Mountain goats are also known as "living fossils" because they look almost the same now as when they were first discovered. 

This is a mountain goat captured by a camera trap in an area where landmines were discovered. The DMZ and surrounding area has the highest number of buried mines per unit area in the world.

Musk deer

The eastern mountainous region of the DMZ is where it meets the Baekdu Range, and is the most primitive (ancient) forest in the DMZ. It retains natural forest, so it is home to rare animals and plants. The endangered musk deer was also seen in the eastern mountainous region of the DMZ. It is characterized as an antlerless deer. It has long tusks protruding from its upper jaw.

Eremias argus (Mongolian racerunner)

It has leopard-like stripes and is very fast. It normally lives on sandbanks, in grass along rivers, under rocks or digging holes in the sand, and feeds on insects. Although most have disappeared, they have been found to live in groups around the DMZ and actively breed. It is quite rare to find such a stable habitat.

Otter

The otter is a mammal that moves freely along the river that runs through South and North Korea. It has become a symbol of peaceful interaction between the two Koreas. But the destruction of its habitats has led to a sharp decline in its population. The membranous front and hind legs of this species make it an excellent swimmer, which is why it is also known as the water panther.

Golden eagle

The golden eagle, an endangered species, often winters at the civilian access control line in Paju and Cheorwon. This is because residents feed the hungry golden eagles, protect them and return them to the wild. We can glimpse the future of the demilitarized zone, where humans and nature coexist, from the lives of residents living in the civilian access control line area in harmony with wildlife.

Manchurian trout

Manchurian trout, an endangered species and freshwater fish of the Salmonidae family that only lives in clean, cold water, can be found around the DMZ. Dutayeon, which is the northernmost region of South Korea in the DMZ, is a clean area that has been untouched by man for decades, and is the largest habitat for these trout.

Asiatic black bear

For the first time in 20 years, an autonomous camera installed by researchers at the National Institute of Ecology has spotted an Asiatic black bear. It is presumed to be reproducing, as a cub of this bear has been discovered, giving it a very hopeful future. This animal has suffered a rapid decline in its population due to poaching and habitat reduction, which has made it an endangered species.

Yellow-throated marten

The yellow-throated marten living in the demilitarized zone has a wide distribution in the Korean ecosystem. It is one of the top predators and is at the top of the food chain. They move in small groups of two to six, and are animals that can even hunt larger specimens.

Wildcat

Bobcats are mammals of the family Felidae, and are an apex predator in the Korean ecosystem. They are usually active at night and feed on various prey such as rodents, birds and insects. They live throughout Korea, in deep forests, coastlines and rice fields.

You can access all the photographs on the Google Arts & Culture website, in the Animals Living in the DMZ section.