Francois Hollande's camel: Mali 'to replace eaten animal'

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Media captionPresident Hollande was presented with the camel in Mali in February

An official says Mali is to send the French president a replacement camel after the first, given to him as a gift, was eaten, Reuters reports.

Francois Hollande had left the creature with a family in Timbuktu for safekeeping, after it was presented to him by local residents in February.

But it was promptly slaughtered and used in a tagine.

France sent troops to Mali in January to regain the north from a loose coalition of militant Islamist groups.

During the young camel's handover ceremony, Mr Hollande had joked about using "it as much as I can as a means of transport" around the Parisian traffic jams.

French officials had originally planned to transport the animal to a zoo in France, but because of the complex logistics it was decided instead to entrust the beast to a local family.

The French defence minister informed the president of the camel's death during a recent cabinet meeting, Valeurs Actuelles magazine reported.

"As soon as we heard of this, we quickly replaced it with a bigger and better-looking camel," Reuters quoted an unnamed Malian official as saying.

"The new camel will be sent to Paris. We are ashamed of what happened to the camel. It was a present that did not deserve this fate."

France currently has 4,000 troops in Mali, backed by thousands of Malian, Chadian and other African forces.

France's defence ministry said this week it had started the withdrawal of its forces from Mali.