Reflecting on the warming ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, zoos in both countries have already exchanged pleasantries over Twitter as well as pictures of the local big cats that live there.
Taking to Twitter on August 17, The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo initiated relations, following the Al Ain Zoo’s Twitter account and tagging them in a greeting that read, “can’t wait to become friends!”
The Abu Dhabi-based zoo responded quickly to the tweet, eager to extend the relations.
“Always together towards wildlife conservation,” they wrote, adding “by the way, How do we write ‘Al Ain Zoo’ in Hebrew?”
Accompanied by a picture of two lion cubs playing rough house, the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo responded with the name of the Al Ain Zoo written out in Hebrew, which transliterated spells out, Gan Hayot Al Ain, and added that they wished that they “could have a lion cub play-date.”
This was met with a reply from the Al Ain Zoo, which contained a GIF of a lion cub named Shaqra, and an invitation to come to the zoo’s safari, the largest man-made safari in the world.
— Al Ain Zoo (@AlAinZooUAE) August 17, 2020
Later, the Jerusalem-based zoo posted a wide-eyed picture of one of their tigers, captioned, “Our tiger Hannah’s reaction when we told her this morning that our friends at the Al Ain Zoo have a white tiger.”
— The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo (@BiblicalZoo) August 19, 2020
“And friends, this is what we call Zooplomacy,” the State of Israel’s official Twitter account, ran by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, wrote amid the zoos’ greetings to one another.
— Israel ישראל (@Israel) August 17, 2020
Though it may seem surprising, the idea of zoo diplomacy is nothing new. In fact, China has been doing it for thousands of years through the use of its most famous animal: the panda.
Though the concept originated back during the Tang Dynasty, when pandas would be sent as diplomatic gifts, modern day China has continued this tradition in a modified fashion, with all pandas being property of China. Originally, the pandas were sent as gifts, but they are now instead loaned out, and are seen as major symbols of Chinese diplomacy.
Other countries also use zoos and animals as means of diplomacy. One notable example is Rainy-Rafiki, a northern white rhino born in the Ramat Gan Safari in 2019. The name “Rafiki,” which means “friend” in Swahili, was chosen specifically in order to boost ties with Tanzania, coinciding with the year of its first anniversary of establishing an embassy in Tel Aviv.