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Dozens of endangered species almost extinct elsewhere in South Korea have been found in the South Korean part of the Demilitarized Zone, a 248-kilometer-long and 4-km-wide belt separating the country from North Korea, according to new research reported by Yonhap News Agency.

According to Yonhap, the research conducted last month by South Korea’s Environment Ministry and its National Institute of Environmental Research in the mid-DMZ area, less than 90 kilometers north of Seoul, confirmed the presence of eight near-extinct mammals, including the small-eared cat and elk, and 24 endangered birds such as the red-crowned crane.

It said surveys by local and international groups of the heavily mined but almost completely untouched DMZ have shown it to be an ecological treasure house, with at least 70 different kinds of rare species of fauna and flora completely protected from human harassment.

The DMZ, which stretches from the east to west coasts of the Korean Peninsula, was established between South and North Korea after the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce.

The natural ecosystem is conserved as both North and South Korea have strictly restricted access to the area.

An Environment Ministry official was quoted as saying the mid-DMZ area that was recently surveyed is “also rich in unusual wetlands and forests, creating a perfect living condition for rare foxes and deer.”

“There is a need for us to consider working on full restoration of the area for species now believed extinct in South Korea,” the official said.