THE KOREAN DEMILITARIZED ZONE (DMZ)
The two-and-a-half-miles wide and 150-odd-miles long demilitarised zone between North and South Korea has had no permanent structures or settlements in it for over five decades. Humans are few and far between in the DMZ with the only exceptions being just over 200 villagers, and few soldiers and armed guards. It is — quite literally — a no man’s land. The isolation of this political region — compared to the bustling countries on either side — has decreased outside interference significantly and given the DMZ the rare opportunity to let its flora and fauna thrive.
This mountainous zone has a large grasslands ecosystem and is home to the Han River delta. The thriving fauna includes white-naped and red-crowned cranes, black-faced spoonbills, swan geese, Angora goats, Amur leopards, and the Asiatic black bear. These species are both seasonal and year-round in the zone.
Locals have also reportedly seen pug marks and mauled remains of animals consistent with large predators, hinting at the possibility of Amur tigers in the DMZ. There are only about ten of these tigers still living in South Korea, and a new habitat in the zone would be great news for the endangered big cat species.
THE ANNAMITE MOUNTAINS
Set along the Vietnam-Laos border, this region’s biodiversity is often considered one that’s left behind in time. While Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and nearby areas were ravaged by herbicides, defoliants and other means of warfare that wiped out most vegetation that grew there, the battle zones and unexploded land mines drove hunters away from this region. It’s also too dangerous to harvest wood from here since trees are still filled with metal fragments.
As vegetation regrew from the destruction, field surveys have revealed a number of unknown species, which include at least five large mammals.
A British overseas territory in the southwest Atlantic, the Falkland Islands were the battleground for the United Kingdom and Argentina in 1982, as both countries waged war over the sovereignty of the archipelago.
Argentinian forces laid claim to the island on the basis of their geographical proximity to the mainland and inheritance of the islands from Spain in the previous century. The British military task force defended their administration on the archipelago based on the islands’ mostly British-descent population.
The Argentinian naval commandos peppered the beaches with nearly 20,000 landmines, which were never retrieved.
These landmines curbed human explorations in the islands and turned them into an unlikely safe haven for penguins. Too light to set the mines off, penguins have thrived in the archipelago breeding with ease in the new native flora of the region. Visitors who wander past the barbed wires and danger signs, can experience thousands of penguins in the islands in five different species — Gentoo, Southern rockhopper, Magellanic, King, and Macaroni —making it the world’s largest penguin sanctuary, albeit not officially.
Patrolled by the UN, the zone separating the Republic of Cyprus and the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was created in 1974 as conflict along Greek and Turkish ethnic identities split the island. With settlements abandoned, wilderness thrives. Certain areas in the few-kilometres wide zone are open for people to live and work in, but for the most part, human activity is restricted.
This Green Line is home to over 350 species of plants including the scarce Cyprus bee orchid and the Cyprus tulip. The region also hosts hundreds of mouflons (a species of wild sheep), Schneider’s skink lizards, lapwings, and the spiny mouse, which was thought to be endangered, if not extinct, in Cyprus.
Golan Heights is the DMZ equivalent between Israel and Syria created in 1967 after the Six Day War, when Israel captured it. The Purple Line border is controlled by the UN and is a demilitarised zone, also called the “Area of Separation.” The zone is ridden with mines and fortifications and few people are allowed in it.
The region is home to a multitude of flora and fauna including rare orchids, wildcats, gazelles, hyenas, wild boars, oak and terebinth forests. Mount Hermon, in the northern part of the zone, also has over a hundred species of butterflies. Wolves and vultures roam free in the region, as do porcupines, foxes, owls and bats. There are also nearly 500 million migratory birds that pass through Golan Heights.