A rabbit breeder who sold 12 of his animals to North Korea so the communist country could start its own breeding program fears they have been eaten by officials.
Karl Szmolinsky with one of his giant rabbits, which weighs 23lb
Karl Szmolinsky sent the huge rabbits, which can grow as big as dogs and produce 15lb (7kg) of meat, to North Korea last year so they could be bred and used to ease desperate food shortages.
He thought they were being kept at a zoo in the capital Pyongyang and was planning to travel to the country after Easter to give advice on setting up a breeding facility.
But the 68-year-old says his trip has been cancelled and he suspects it may be because communist officials have eaten the rabbits, which he sold for a cut-price ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬80 (Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£54) each rather than the usual ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬200.
Mr Szmolinsky, who has won prizes for his rabbits during 47 years of breeding them, said: “ThatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s an assumption, not an assertion. But theyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re not getting any more.
“I think the animals arenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t alive any more. I was due to go and inspect the animals and look at the facility.
He added that he will no longer export rabbits to the country. “North Korea wonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t be getting anything from me any more, they shouldnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t even bother asking.”