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Sri Lanka to send jaguars, alligators to thank NGO

July 30,2010
Sri Lanka is donating 153 rare or endangered animals to Korea, including a pair of elephants, golden snub-nosed monkeys, jaguars and alligators, to thank a nongovernmental organization that helps Sri Lankan laborers.

According to Kim Hae-sung, founder of an NGO called the Global Love Sharing Center, Seoul Grand Park had asked Sri Lanka to donate 14 species close to extinction and was surprised by the country’s reaction.

“Sri Lanka’s government said it was able to provide 40 species, including jaguars and alligators,” said Kim. “After mediation, a total of 153 animals were chosen to be given to Korea.”

These animals are literally priceless because trading in endangered species, especially elephants, is prohibited.

“For the last 20 years, the number of animals in national zoos declined from 4,000 to 3,000,” Kim said, “but it’s hard to purchase animals because of international law.” Therefore, Sri Lanka’s gift of so many animals is not only generous, but also a sign of good diplomatic ties.

According to Kim, an official from Seoul Grand Park said: “I was going to bring in those animals even if I had to go to jail. I’m so glad I don’t have to.” In fact, the gift wouldn’t have been possible without Kim and the work of his NGO.

Kim’s group had given aid to an individual Sri Lankan laborer in Korea for almost ten years. One day, the Sri Lankan, whose uncle was visiting, asked Kim to invite the relative to a New Year’s feast. Kim did, and the uncle turned out to be a lawmaker named Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was eventually elected president of the country. Rajapaksa personally approved the donation to Korea.

“As a gesture of gratitude to our organization, President Rajapaksa decided to donate these rare animals to Korea,” said Kim.

Seoul Grand Park is preparing for the big arrivals. “Seoul Grand Park is planning a project called ‘Noah’s ark,’ in which they are spending 87 million won [$73,428] to rent a huge cargo plane from Korean Air,” said Kim. “The Sri Lankan government also plans to formally donate the animals by sending its high-ranking officials.”


By Kang Chan-ho [enational@joongang.co.kr]



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