North Korea may be one of the world’s least tourist-friendly countries on Earth, but its strategic location along the avian East Asian Australasian Flyway and complete lack of development is preventing the extinction of several once plentiful species of migratory birds.
Around fifty million birds, from tiny song birds to cranes, journey across the East Asian Australasian Flyway every year, and eight million of them are shorebirds or waders. For many of these, North Korea’s west coast is the only stop for tens of thousands of miles, which means that without it, they would probably couldn’t finish their epic trip. But what makes this otherwise inhospitable place so important to birds?
A group of New Zealand bird watchers asked permission from the North Korean government to enter the country and observe the migratory birds. Armed with binoculars, powerful telescopes and cameras they counted the birds making their stop from the southern hemisphere all the way to the top of the northern one. “As we lose habitat elsewhere, the birds are going to get more and more pushed into remaining habitat, which by default means North Korea,” birder David Melville told the BBC. Because the shorelines of neighboring countries China and South Korea have witnessed rapid developments, with most of the mudflats having been converted to dry land for agriculture and industrial projects, the birds have virtually no place to stop and refuel.