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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 September 2005, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
Zimbabwe and China in tiger deal
Siberian tiger
This is an environment the imported tigers are not likely to find
Zimbabwe is about to import four endangered Siberian tigers from China for captive breeding, officials say.

Zimbabwe Tourism Minister Francis Nhema told the Herald newspaper China had received zebras, elephants and impala as part of an "exchange programme".

Correspondents say the move shows President Mugabe is wooing China.

He is trying to strengthen ties with the Asian giant as his country is increasingly isolated in the world because of a poor human rights record.

"We do not have the tiger in this country and we would like to benefit from the exchange programme with China," Mr Nhema was quoted by the state-controlled Herald as saying.

"We are happy that three experts found out animal habitats friendly to the requirements that are compulsory for tiger breeding and we expect the animals would be here as soon as possible."


The tigers are intended for captive breeding in the Hwange National Park, 500km (320 miles) west of the capital Harare.

A biologist working for the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo, Peter Mundy, told AP news agency the plan was "a complete load of garbage", adding that the country even lacked the resources to look after its own wildlife.

"It would be cruel," Mr Mundy said, adding that the park's seasons, climate and vegetation were not suitable for those animals, whose native region is seasonally covered in snow.

But Dick Pitman, head of a conservationist organisation, the Zambezi Society, said he approved of the plan provided it was run by tiger experts with adequate foreign funding, and the animals were not allowed to leave the park.

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