Zimbabwe and China Swap Animals in Tiger Diplomacy
HARARE Zimbabwe, increasingly seeking friends in the east as the West accuses it of human rights abuses, is extending its diplomatic drive to the animal kingdom.
President Robert Mugabe's government has agreed to send elephants, zebras and impala antelopes to China in return for four Siberian tigers, the state-run Herald newspaper said on Thursday.
Tourism Minister Francis Nhema said Zimbabwe would soon be receiving the Siberian tigers -- the largest cats in the world -- for captive breeding in the Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe's largest game reserve.
During the Cold War, China regularly donated giant pandas to other countries as tokens of goodwill in what became known as 'panda diplomacy'.
Zimbabwe's wildlife has suffered from rampant poaching and Nhema said his ministry was ready to do all it could to boost the animal population and the ailing tourism sector.
"We do not have a tiger in this country and we would like to benefit from the exchange programme with China. We have also given them various animals for breeding purposes in China that include zebra, impala and elephants," he told the Herald.
Four Chinese tigers -- even rarer than their Siberian kin -- have already been brought to South Africa to learn how to hunt, although one has died. The aim is to send their cubs back to their native land for release into the wild.
Nhema was unavailable for comment but the Herald quoted a Parks and Wildlife Authority manager as saying Zimbabwe was looking at establishing a number of zoos to breed some endangered species before releasing them back into the wild.