In Songdo, once dubbed South Korea’s “Smartest City” by Bloomberg, there is a Central Park — much like the one in New York — where the local residents go to unwind.

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A bird’s-eye view of Songdo City’s Central Park. | @hee__kyoung/Twitter

In the middle of this Central Park flows a manmade river, filled with filtered water pulled from the Yellow Sea. The park provides boat and canoe rental services so the residents can row up and down this river — including toward the “Rabbit Island”.

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Canoes on the river inside Songdo City’s Central Park. | @songdoibd/Tistory

The “Rabbit Island” is a small, separated piece of land that inhabits, as the name suggests, wild rabbits. While the intention of bringing wild rabbits to Central Park may have been educational…

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“Cute rabbits live on this island.” | @pultodong/Naver Cafe

… the execution is now facing massive criticism for being “completely negligent and abusive” at the very least. Local residents are now questioning the confinement that is “Rabbit Island”, after watching the wild rabbit population starve, freeze, and even drown to death.

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Rabbits on the “Rabbit Island”. | @HolidayJournal/lookandwalk.com

There used to be a good 100 rabbits. Now there are barely 20.

— Naver Cafe @pultodong

The truth behind what actually happens on the island is gruesome, according to the residents. They claimed the rabbits are currently surviving on feed that is actually intended for deer. Not having the proper access to nutrients, the rabbits are falling prone to diseases and eventually dying.

Plus, since the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the park rangers have allegedly been skipping on entering the island to feed the rabbits. Reaching the island would require taking a boat, but that is a service which has shut down with the pandemic.

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A map of Songdo City’s Central Park. | @pultodong/Naver Cafe

Most importantly, the residents claimed, these rabbits are dying on the island and their bodies aren’t being properly treated. Because rabbits naturally dig holes to both keep themselves from extreme weathers and relieve themselves from boredom or stress, the ones on the island too have been burrowing. Unfortunately, as they live on a patch of manmade land that is floating on water, these rabbits end up digging all the way down to the water and drowning themselves.

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| Gary Bendig/Unsplash

Some residents took pictures of these bodies of dead rabbits piling on top of each other, calling out the park rangers and the city for abusing the animals for no reason.

Rabbit experts from “Pultodong” (a rabbit rescue organization) have since been trying to file complaints with the city officials, like through the Incheon Metropolitan Facilities Management Corporation.

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The “Rabbit Island” back in 2015. | @minjingxuan/Twitter

The experts shared, however, chances of improvement are slim. When the rabbits reproduce, they overpopulate the island. When the rabbits become more vulnerable to “diseases“, they lose their lives without proper care. The experts called it “hell on Earth” for the trapped rabbits.

Here’s what the organization heard back from the management and rangers about the rabbits in Songdo: They don’t neuter the rabbits. They don’t know how many are male and how many are female. They have been allegedly ‘managing’ the head count at around 20. They don’t vaccinate the rabbits. They ‘refill’ the head count when some die from diseases.

They said they clean and feed the island twice a day, every single day. But that is very hard to believe, considering that they would have to access the island by boat each time. In this weather? Also, keep in mind that in the first place, creating an island to trap these animals in shows they have no intention of providing the animals with the access and care needed.

— Naver Cafe @pultodong

Songdo City is said to have commented, “There is nothing to be done” about the Rabbit Island “because it is inevitable that rabbits die.” The nonchalant response has infuriated not only Songdo’s local residents, but also Korean online communities.

Meanwhile, the criticism has raised additional red flags with its “Deer Farm” as well. Animal welfare activists are now questioning whether Songdo City is also mistreating the deer living in the park.

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Deer in the “Deer Farm”. | @HolidayJournal/lookandwalk.com

Who in their right mind says, ‘Hey! Let’s trap live animals on an island and see if they thrive’? Whose idea is this? How did they get approval? Where are their brains? Why are we still dealing with issues like this in 2021? When are they going to come to their senses?

— Frustrated Netizen

Songdo City has not yet officially responded to the growing concern over the wild rabbits that are surviving on the island. Here’s a video of the rabbits “trapped” on the island, proudly promoted on Songdo City’s official blog.