World lead­ers gift­ing each other live an­i­mals is not com­mon

The Mercury News - - News -

Turk­menistan’s pres­i­dent brought Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin a very cute present for his 65th birth­day — a Cen­tral Asian shep­herd puppy. While China is known for prac­tic­ing “panda diplo­macy” — send­ing in­dige­nous giant pan­das to other na­tions as a sym­bol of warm diplo­matic re­la­tions — lead­ers gift­ing each other an­i­mals is less com­mon. Of­fi­cial gifts do some­times come with four legs, though not al­ways with the best re­sults. Here’s a look at some re­cent ones:

• France’s then-Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande re­ceived a camel from au­thor­i­ties in Mali in 2013 out of ap­pre­ci­a­tion for his send­ing French troops to in­ter­vene against Is­lamist rebels. The re­cal­ci­trant an­i­mal made a lot of noise and didn’t seem to like Hol­lande much, and he de­cided to leave it with a fam­ily to take care of. They may have mis­un­der­stood their mis­sion — they slaugh­tered the an­i­mal and made it into stew.

• Then-Bul­gar­ian Pres­i­dent Ge­orgi Par­vanov gave then-U.S. Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush a 2-month-old sheep­dog named Balkan of Go­ran­nadraganov in 2005. Val­ued at $430 at the time, Balkan, as the black-and­white pup be­came known, was over the limit for gifts from for­eign of­fi­cials but clearly couldn’t be stored in the Na­tional Ar­chives like other valu­able presents. In the end, the Bushes bought the dog from the U.S. Trea­sury as al­lowed by the rules. They con­sid­ered keep­ing him at their ranch in Texas but feared he might not adapt well to the heat, so they regifted him to a friend with a farm in Mary­land.

• In 2010, Zim­babwe’s Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe backed down at the last minute on a plan to cre­ate a lat­ter-day Noah’s Ark by send­ing pairs of rare an­i­mals to a zoo in North Korea, af­ter an in­ter­na­tional out­cry from con­ser­va­tion groups. Teams had al­ready been round­ing up the gi­raffes, ze­bras, ele­phants and other an­i­mals from a na­tional park be­fore the plan was scrapped. Mu­gabe him­self re­ceived four camels as a gift from for­mer Libyan dic­ta­tor Moam­mar Gad­hafi, but was unim­pressed, later say­ing that while Gad­hafi made huge in­vest­ments in the West, “He made the un­der­tak­ing on in­vest­ing in Africa, but we saw him dish­ing out camels and we got four, which are at the farm.”

• And then there’s Bri­tain’s Queen El­iz­a­beth II. A re­cent ex­hibit at Buck­ing­ham Palace listed all the an­i­mals she has re­ceived dur­ing her 65-year reign. Many have been horses, some of which she has rid­den. In most other cases, the an­i­mals were sent to zoos or na­ture re­serves. They in­clude two trum­peter swans, two pygmy hip­pos, four cock­a­toos, two wal­la­bies, one dwarf cas­sowary, one sloth, two jaguars and one white Nguni bull she re­ceived from King of Good­will Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu of the Zu­lus dur­ing a visit to South Africa, where it re­mained.


Rus­sian Prime Min­is­ter Vladimir Putin, left, cud­dles a Bul­gar­ian Karakachanka breed sheep­dog puppy, a gift from his Bul­gar­ian coun­ter­part Boiko Borisov, right.

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