South Korea is deploying snipers to the Demilitarised Zone with orders to shoot any wild boar that are seen in the buffer zone with North Korea before they can bring more cases of African swine fever into the South.
Sharpshooters from the military will be sent to the border on Tuesday, supported by civilian hunters and drones fitted with thermal imaging equipment to locate and track boar.
The cull will focus on areas to the north of Seoul and Incheon, where five wild boar have been found dead so far this month. All of the feral pigs have tested positive for African swine fever, which is highly contagious and has no cure. It does not affect humans.
The latest outbreak of the disease was reported in China in August last year and has spread in the intervening months. Cases have been reported in Mongolia and Vietnam, with North Korean authorities confirming a single outbreak at a farm near its border with China in May.
South Korean authorities offered to assist efforts in the North to contain and eradicate the virus, but were ignored. Pyongyang has made no announcements on further cases.
Fourteen South Korean farms located close to the heavily fortified border with the North have reported cases since mid-September, with authorities imposing no-go zones in some areas in an effort to stop the disease from spreading further. The assumption is that wild boar contracted the virus in the North and have transmitted it to farms in the South.
The last confirmed case was nearly one week ago, but Seoul is not taking any chances. It has also communicated its plan to cull wild boar to North Korea.
“In order to prevent accidental clashes with the North due to our gunshots, we have notified the North of our decision as well,” a government official told Yonhap News.
State media in North Korea has made little mention of the disease spreading among domestic pigs, although there are unofficial reports from dissident media suggesting that the virus has wiped out entire herds and is out of control. That assessment is backed up by reports by the South Korean National Intelligence Service.
Pork accounts for as much as 80 percent of the protein consumed by North Koreans and the loss of the nation’s herds will have a serious impact on the diet and health of the 25.2 million-strong population. Aid agencies say that crop production has been affected by poor rainfall this year, while an estimated 40 percent of the population are in urgent need of food assistance.