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With humans increasingly invading and polluting spaces that were once teeming with wildlife, the list of endangered animals grows longer every day. Now South Korea, a country that boasts a population density 10 times the global average, is planning to take a bold step to try reverse at least some of the damage, with a new National Research Center for Endangered Animals.
Set to begin construction in December, the center is nestled in a remote, pristine area of the country - one of the few that has not been taken over by its burgeoning population. It will comprise of a series of huge glass biodomes that will be used to breed and raise endangered birds like the Black-faced Spoonbill. Endemic to Korea, they have been severely impacted from loss of habitat, due to industrialization. With a global known population of less than 2,000 specimens, saving the birds is high priority not just for South Koreans, but also, bird lovers all over the world.
The Korean architect firm of Samoo who is building the nature center, designed the birdcage shaped biodomes after noticing the spoonbill's circular flight patterns. They also selected the hillside location because it would provide the birds with enough height to fly away, once they had adapted to the environment and were ready to head back to the wild.
Another set of buildings will nurture and study the Korean stumpy bullhead, a fish that can be found only in South Korea as well as the Eastern Golden frog, currently present only in remote regions of the country. In addition, the center will also try rehabilitate endangered animals that are not endemic to Korea. Among them is the freshwater tortoise, which is fast approaching the highly endangered list partly because of loss of habitat, but largely, due to illegal poaching in countries like China where it is coveted for meat. Also on the list are more common animals like the fox, lynx and musk deer, which are all rapidly disappearing due to human encroachment. The plans also include a visitor center to educate locals and tourists about the animals and conservation in general.
In order to minimize the impact on the environment, the center that is scheduled for completion in 2016, will be as sustainable as possible, thanks to features like solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling. The architects will also ensure that it receives as much natural lightning and ventilation as possible, reducing the impact even further. Hopefully, other countries will take their cue from South Korea and start similar projects.
Resources: Fastcompany.com, Gizmondo.com, theverge.com