Big German Bunnies May Help Feed N. Korea A retired man living near Berlin strikes a deal with the Pyongyang government to help start a bunny breeding program. The Koreans want big breeds for maximum food potential.

Big German Bunnies May Help Feed N. Korea

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This just in. I'm not kidding. I've just been handed this piece of paper which says the following. A giant German rabbit named Robert is working to feed North Koreans. A retired man living near Berlin struck a deal with the Pyongyang government to help start a bunny-breeding program.

NPR's Emily Harris sent this story.

EMILY HARRIS: A faded sign on the front door says beware of the dog. But the rabbit's cage in Karl Szmolinsky backyard could be a little frightening too if you aren't expecting 22-pound bunnies with ears eight inches long. After Szmolinsky's rabbit Robert won the title of biggest rabbit in Germany last year, the North Korean government came to take a look.

Last month, for just over $100 a head, Szmolinsky shipped four big bucks, including Robert, and eight huge hares to Pyongyang to start a government sponsored breeding program.

Mr. KARL SZMOLINSKY (Rabbit Breeder): (Speaking foreign language)

HARRIS: The Koreans weren't at all interested in the smaller breeds, he says, only the big ones. The minister who came out here didn't want any rabbits that were under 10 kilograms.

Szmolinsky says a rabbit that size can provide seven kilos, or about 15 pounds of meat.

Mr. SZMOLINSKY: (Speaking foreign language)

HARRIS: You can eat all the parts of a rabbit, he says. Everything but the intestines, lungs, liver - there's lots of meat in the head. You can take it out and make liverwurst. Every part of the rabbit is good, he says, except the bones. Those are for the dog.

(Soundbite of Rabbit chewing)

HARRIS: Szmolinsky's rabbit munch a pellet mix that includes oats, apples and oil. They also eat greens, here fresh kale from his garden. He says giant rabbits need about 2 pounds of food a day. That's twice as much as the North Korean government distributes to many of its people to survive. But Szmolinsky isn't worried that the rabbits will starve. He says they eat rice.

Mr. SZMOLINSKY: (Speaking foreign language)

HARRIS: During communist times here, he said, we didn't have as much available as now. So we also bought rice for the rabbits. But when you feed them rice, they must also have a lot of liquids so they don't get bloated or stopped up.

The North Korean embassy in Berlin told NPR that of course there's enough food for the rabbits. Michael Dunford, deputy director in North Korea of the United Nation's food aide program, says at this point there is enough food for people, just.

Mr. MICHAEL DUNFORD (Deputy Director, U.N. Food Aid Program in North Korea): We haven't seen evidence of starvation at this stage. We are concerned, however, that food and security is worsening. And given the amount of food that arrived in the country last year, it will start to have an impact in what we call the lean season.

HARRIS: That's when last year's harvest will start to run out sometime this spring. Many international contributions to feed North Korea dropped after Pyongyang added restrictions to the U.N. program two years ago. South Korea still made major and needed bilateral donations, but suspended those last year after Pyongyang tested missiles, then a nuclear device. Szmolinsky says he's not worried about helping a dictatorship. He's thinking about hungry children.

Mr. SZMOLINSKY: (Speaking foreign language)

HARRIS: During Hitler's time and afterwards, he says he remembers how hard everything was. I lived through all that as a child, he says, and wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. I hope through the rabbits I can help a little bit, says Szmolinsky, and that Korea might wake up and start caring more for its people than for the bomb.

Mr. SZMOLINSKY: (Speaking foreign language)

HARRIS: Even if international sales grow, Szmolinsky is keeping his favorite rabbit, the 18-pound Robert the second, son of the first. He's hoping this spring to go visit his dozen already breeding at an agricultural enterprise near Pyongyang.

Emily Harris, NPR News, Abrosyata(ph).

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