Brisbane, Nov 15:
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was charmed by a special Australian welcome – a cuddly koala bear.
The grey cuddly bundle was brought up to the Indian prime minister by an Australian official backstage at the G20 when the leaders were taking a break.
Modi with a big smile patted the koala bear as Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott looked on smilingly next to him.
Modi was not the only one to be charmed by the Australian marsupial, or pouched mammal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, a wildlife lover, cuddled a koala too.
Putin picked up a koala bear in his arms, while Abbott held one in similar fashion backstage at the G20 summit.
US President Barack Obama and Abbott posed with koala bears in their arms.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel too “tangled” with a koala backstage, as the Herald Sun put it.
The spouses of many of the world leaders visited the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane and were equally impressed by the marsupial, which has round fluffy ears and a large spoon-shaped nose.
While the G20 leaders were in retreat, Abbott’s wife Margie Abbott led a handful of G20 leaders’ wives through a wildlife sanctuary where they were treated to the ultimate Aussie experience – koala cuddling.
The women held koalas and hand-fed some kangaroos while touring Brisbane’s Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary Saturday.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s wife Peng Liyuan and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s wife Laureen were among the first ladies who fed kangaroos, cuddled cute koala bears and watched a sheep shearing show over morning tea.
The wives of leaders from Canada, China, the European Union, Indonesia, Italy, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey, the OECD and the United Nations participated in the morning outing.
Koala bears, which sleep for up to 20 hours a day and feed on a diet of special eucalyptus leaves, are notoriously capricious. Hence, park officials had been training the animals how to behave ahead of the high-status visit, said RT.
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.
Among the other spouses of world leaders who cuddled koalas were Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s wife Iriana Joko Widodo, and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s wife Sare Davutoglu.