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California Attempts Rare Animal Diplomacy with Santa Cruz Kangaroo Rat

While Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and their cub Xiao Qi Ji, the giant pandas on loan from China for twenty years, travel back to their home country, the future of “panda diplomacy” is in question given the tense relations between the US and China. California, the one US state with the longest independent reach into international relations, has decided to try its own version of animal diplomacy through short-term leasing, exorbitant recurring payments, and inflexible contract terms covering animal enclosures, food quality, and animal “amusements”. California also added new requirements for data collection on zoo visitors, free advertising for summer blockbuster movies, and exclusivity on California wines to be served at all government functions. The California rare animal to be used for diplomatic purposes is the Santa Cruz kangaroo rat, named after its home in the Santa Cruz mountains but also Santa Cruz, a small coastal city with a big Californian cost of living crisis. The rodent, which has unusually long hind legs used for walking, was once thought to be extinct for decades until a small population was discovered bounding through a nature preserve savagely chasing away a large flock of Canadian Geese. Qatar is the first country to sign up for three rats and is already building a modest $57M animal enclosure to house them. The Wroclaw Zoo in Poland was considering the rat to add its expansive collection of animals but balked at the monthly lease price of $60,000 per month per rat plus the costs of organic vegan animal feed required to be purchased from California. The US State Department, believing that it too should get in on the rare animal diplomacy game, has offered wild buffaloes to zoos with reasonable leasing terms and an option to buy the animals at the end of the lease. Spain has already shown interest in a “Running of the Buffaloes” event next summer.