|A member of the African swine flu field response team from Hwacheon County in Gangwon Province looks at a wild boar trapped on a mountain in the county's Sanae Village on Apr. 22, 2020. Korea Times file|
By Ko Dong-hwan
About a year after African swine flu (ASF) was discovered in wild boars in inter-Korean border regions, a culling has reduced the animal's numbers by 83 percent, according to the central government Wednesday.
A wildlife disease control team under the Ministry of Environment said a count was done over 1,061 square kilometers across six cities and counties in the region, including Paju in Gyeonggi Province, after the disease was discovered in October 2019. The number was 8,237 then and 1,404 in September this year after the cull.
The reduction has brought down the animal's density from 6.1 a square kilometer in 2019 to 1.4 this year, which is under the ASF controlling standard of two.
In a broader region spanning 3,176 square kilometers that includes the southernmost fences separating boars from people, the number is estimated to be down from 22,203 in October 2019 to 14,000-16,000 this year. The estimate is based on the number of dead boars or those caught.
|A hunter searches for wild boars on Mount Hongbok in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province, in October 2019. Korea Times file|
The government limited boar hunters from using dogs and guns because they help the wildlife hosts spread the disease. Instead, traps were used.
With the nation now entering winter that draws hunters to the mountains, the government said it will quickly intensify culling to reduce the number of ASF-infected boars.
It said it will increase regions that allow gun-hunting from 18 villages to 198 across seven cities and counties in northern inter-Korean border regions ― 10 kilometers north of the southernmost fences ― where the spread of the disease to South Korean residents is least likely.
A special hunting group of 30 using traps will be deployed to areas within five kilometers of the southernmost fences, while a group of 59 hunters began searching the cities of Pocheon and Namyangju and Gapyeong County in late October. Gangwon Province will open up five cities and counties, including Gangneung and Hongcheon, to culling in December.
Since the first case of ASF on Oct. 3, 2019, in a demilitarized zone in Yeoncheon County, 782 cases have been reported.
Yeoncheon and Hwacheon County have reported the most cases, with 289 and 299, respectively, while the cities of Paju, Pocheon and Chuncheon and the counties of Cheorwon, Yanggu, Inje and Goseong account for the rest.
Six cases were discovered from Oct. 29 until Nov. 1, all in carcasses. Five were from Hwacheon and one from Inje.