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Football payback Giraffe dies

19 May 2010 02:01 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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A Giraffe has become the first victim of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe's "Noah's Ark" gift to his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-Il.

The bizarre experiment involves pairs of African animals, including elephants, zebras, giraffes and antelopes, being secretly flown to North Korea.

One of the giraffes had died as it was being prepared to be relocated and another unknown animal had reportedly died in transit, a conservationist told Radio Australia.

He described the gift of animals as "football payback".

Last month, it was announced the North Korean soccer team would hold a training camp in Zimbabwe ahead of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force chairman Johny Rodrigues told the BBC animals were being secretly caught in pairs over the past two months in the Hwange National Park, western Zimbabwe.

Mr Rodrigues said witnesses had seen state parks vehicles towing cages in the area.

He held particular concerns that two baby elephants may not survive after being separated from their mothers.

Zimbabwe's director general for national parks Vitalis Chadenga last week confirmed a plan to send animals to North Korea, but said Mr Mugabe was not behind it.

"I can confirm that we received an application from the Democratic Republic of North Korea and we are still processing the application" he told The Standard, a Zimbabwean newspaper.

Two rhinos given to North Korea in the 1980s by Mugabe reportedly died only a few months after their relocation, The Standard said.

Opposition groups vowed to demonstrate against the North Korea soccer team's presence. Troops loyal to Mugabe trained by North Koreans crushed an armed rebellion in the western Matabeleland province - where Hwange is located - and massacred tens of thousands of civilians in the 1980s.

The team's visit to Zimbabwe was in doubt. North Korea soccer officials refused to confirm their itinerary when they left Pyongyang for training in Switzerland on May 8.

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