In the midst all those news stories of blank stares and the resurrection of Cold War tensions between certain world leaders (not naming any names, Obama & Putin), Australians appear to know how to cut through the ice to warm up a party. At the G20 in Brisbane, the country’s Prime Minister and the summit’s host Tony Abbott generated some first hand excitement with his koala diplomacy.
Social media was all abuzz on November 15 with a good number of photos taken including those with Abbott, Barack Obama and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (who is no stranger to the love of animals) snuggling up to the world’s cutest koalas. When one of the furry and sizable critters sunk his claws into Putin’s suit, the Australian PM noted that the Russian leader felt “quite soft and fuzzy inside himself.”
While their husbands conferenced, the spouses of many of the world leaders visited the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane. Abbott's wife Margie Abbott led a handful of the wives through the wildlife sanctuary where they were also treated to the ultimate Aussie experience - koala cuddling.
Chinese President Xi Jinping's wife Peng Liyuan and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's spouse Laureen were among the first ladies that in addition to cuddling cute koala bears, also fed kangaroos and watched a sheep shearing show during morning tea.
The leaders’ wives from Canada, China, the European Union, Indonesia, Italy, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey and the United Nations participated in the morning outing, as well.
Koala bears, which sleep up to 20 hours a day and feed on a diet of special eucalyptus leaves, are notoriously capricious. Hence, one report noted that park officials had been training the animals how to behave in advance of the high-status visit.
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, founded in 1927, is home to more than 130 koalas and a wide variety of native animals. Koalas, which are not actually bears but rather marsupials that carry their young in a pouch, are an iconic symbol of Australia.
As an Australian, I am proud of the fact that we are hosting the G20 and I'm proud that today we can share the koala story," said Koala handler Al Mucci from the Dreamworld wildlife park.
"Koalas population is dropping. We want to share that with the global community, that more help is required to make sure that people and koalas live together for another 200 years here in Australia,” added Mucci. Koala diplomacy definitely was the right activity to move that initiative a long!