After the France sent troops to Mali to help push out Islamic rebels that had seized the northern part of the country, Malian officials felt that the best way to thank French President François Hollande was to give him an exotic animal. Hollande gave that camel to a family from Timbuktu which ended up slaughtering it before they made it into a dinnertime stew.
The Chinese have been practicing Panda diplomacy for over one thousand years. They have given numerous Pandas away as gifts to world leaders. In 1972, President Richard Nixon was the recipient of Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing during his visit to China. In return, Nixon gave a couple of Ox and the Pandas were sent to the National Zoo in Washington D.C.
On a visit to Australia’s Northern Territory in November 2011, the territory’s Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, gave away an insurance policy worth $50,000 to the Obama family during his stay, just in case the Secret Service dozed off while on duty. The region is famous for having the most crocodiles throughout Australia. Obama gleefully accepted the insurance policy.
One of the weirdest, and most disturbing, diplomatic gifts comes from Saddam Hussein, the former President of Iraq. In his memoirs, Donald Rumsfeld noted that during a meeting with Hussein in 1983, he received a three-minute-long video full of footage showing Syrian military members and young boys biting snakes’ heads off and stabbing puppies with Hafez al-Assad laughing in the background.
Diplomacy between the US and Iran has been rocky sine many years. As the US military’s surveillance programme increased and drones became more prevalent, Iran took it upon itself to stick it to the US government in a meeting with Russian officials where Iranians presented a model of a US drone in an attempt to show Russia that they had shot down a US drone.
In 2010, Russian President Vladimir Putin and then Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borisov greeted each other and then the fun began. In a friendly gesture, Borisov gifted a 10-week-old Bulgarian Shepard named Buffy to the Russian President. It’s rumoured that in the past, Putin received a black lab, an Akita, and a Tiger which was quickly sent to a wildlife preserve.
In 2009, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Sergei Lavrov to ease tensions. To kick off their meeting, Clinton presented Lavrov with a yellow box with a red button in the middle with the words “reset” and “peregruzka” engraved on the face. Not only is the gift kind of lame, but whoever did the translation of the word “reset” was incorrect, as the word printed translated to “overloaded” instead.
In 2009, President Obama was given a bottle of olive oil from the President of the Palestinian Authority. The gift was valued around $75 and remains as one of the cheapest gifts President Obama has received while in office.
While serving as the US President for two terms, George W. Bush and his family received almost 1,000 gifts per month. In 2009, Bush accepted a gift of over 300 pounds of lamb meat from the President of Argentina.
Not only was it the first time that a US President had received a Komodo dragon as a gift, but the dragon George W. Bush received in 1990 from the Indonesian government was actually the largest dragon in the western hemisphere at that time. Despite the historical importance of the dragon, Bush was unable to keep the gift and he donated it to the Cincinnati Zoo. While at the zoo, the nine-foot dragon grew to over 300 pounds and produced over 30 offspring.