Wondering what else Chinese president Xi Jinping did during his whistle stop tour of Harare this week?
Posted on YouTube, the footage, taken by CCTV, shows Xi at the Wild is Life Sanctuary. He and his wife Peng Liyuan are also filmed tentatively petting a pangolin or scaly anteater.
China is one of the world’s biggest consumers of pangolin products, where the scales of this shy nocturnal animal are used in traditional medicine.
Some animal lovers and conservationists have been fiercely critical of China’s purchase this year of 24 baby elephants from Zimbabwe for display in a small safari park in Guangdong Province.
Recent reports have revealed that China has also been given two Zimbabwean lions. They were a personal gift from President Robert Mugabe, Xi revealed at the weekend.
They’ve been named Jin Jin and Fei Fei “which sound the same as the first Chinese characters for Zimbabwe and Africa,” the Chinese president wrote in an opinion piece published in the Sunday Mail ahead of his visit.
Sending a strong message
It’s still not clear when and where in Zimbabwe the lions were captured.
Conservation groups, however, appear to be heartened by Xi Jinping’s visit to the game sanctuary on Wednesday.
Wildlife at Risk (WAR) said in a post to Facebook: “To change centuries of ancient habits and beliefs takes enormous commitment and vision and is not done overnight.
“But this [Chinese] president is sending out a strong message by personally taking… the time to visit… and interact with the animals,” it added.
While much of the Zimbabwe state press has been triumphantly reporting on the “billions of dollars worth of deals” signed during this week’s visit, a statement published on Friday by the ministry of finance gives a more measured view of things.
The statement says Mugabe’s government is “pleased” with the co-operation between Zimbabwe and China.
It goes on to give details of just three deals: a loan of nearly US$1bn to be used to refurbish Hwange Power Station, a loan of US$98m for the state telephone company TelOne and a grant to help construct a new parliament building.
The other deals benefit private firms, according to a report in the official Chronicle newspaper on Friday.