Kim Jong Un visiting Pyongyang Central Zoo in March 2014. A breakdown in facility equipment has led to animal deaths and a delay in new construction, according to sources. File Photo by Rodong Sinmun/Yonhap
SEOUL, Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Exotic animals, including Persian leopards that North Korea received from Russia as a gift, are languishing at Pyongyang Central Zoo, according to a source on the country.
A breakdown in ventilation or air-conditioning facilities, most likely due to frequent power outages in North Korea, has contributed to the suffocation of some of the animals, in addition to poor zoo management, South Korean news network Channel A reported Wednesday.
Pyongyang Central Zoo was one of many North Korean institutions that had received special instructions from Kim Jong Un ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Korean Workers' Party.
But a source, speaking to South Korea media on the condition of anonymity, said that the "self-designed" ventilation facilities devised by North Korean engineers were not suitable for the purposes of animal husbandry, and new construction could not be completed on deadline. Dozens of animals also suffocated when air-conditioning recently stopped running for four hours, the source said.
Aquatic animals scheduled to perform on Oct. 10, the Workers' Party anniversary, also perished. Casualties included the zoo's sea lions, seals and dolphins, according to the source.
The gift of animals from Russia to North Korea, delivered in May, included the leopards, African lions, striped hyenas and long-tailed parakeets and were sent to commemorate the North Korean anniversary.
The zoo's new construction plans, meanwhile, have been delayed. A North Korean source dispatched to China on behalf of the state told Radio Free Asia that the Workers' Party had agreed to finish zoo construction in late April.
The oversight in the design of the ventilation facilities contributed to the delay, the source said.
As recently as September, North Korea's KCNA aired footage of a 65-meter structure that was being built inside the zoo.
The zoo is located in western Pyongyang and was built under the guidance of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung in 1959. There are 5,000 animals representing 650 species, and most of the animals were delivered to Kim Il Sung as gifts from pro-Pyongyang countries during the Cold War.