Earlier this month, the government of Zimbabwe announced that it was planning to give North Korea an ark's worth of animals -- two of every creature found in the southern African country's Hwange National Park -- for its longstanding Asian ally's zoo. Conservationists in Africa and elsewhere, not unreasonably, fear the worst.
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As with most things in the Hermit Kingdom, only a few sketchy facts are known about the Korea Central Zoo in Pyongyang; its elephants purportedly are descended from a "hero" pachyderm given to the Kim regime by Ho Chi Minh -- even zoo attractions in North Korea come with an Western-imperialist-fighting lineage -- and one British visitor in the 1970s encountered a parrot that cawed "Long live the Great Leader!" in English. Suffice it to say that Pyongyang is probably no Mount Ararat.
But though President Robert Mugabe gifting a pair of baby elephants to Kim Jong Il may seem like a particularly ghastly move, zoos and geopolitics have long been closely linked -- with results that range from the bizarre to the downright appalling.
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