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Snacking Mugabe, flying penguins greet April Fools

Flying penguins, lampooned heads of state, foul-mouthed chefs gone polite and a car that repels full-bladdered dogs topped the list of April Fool pranks around the world on Tuesday.

A girl watches a parade during a traditional celebration of April Fool's Day in Skopje April 1, 2008. Children in Skopje parade in costumes every year on April Fool's Day. (REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski)

An elaborate BBC video of flying penguins topped a rich offering of spoofs in Britain that included Gordon Ramsay, Alistair Darling and a full-page advert from BMW.

The Independent newspaper reported that foul-mouthed TV chef Ramsay was banning swearing in all his restaurants after Australian authorities refused an application for him to set up an eatery on the grounds of "decency".

The BMW advert, carried in several newspapers, purported to introduce Canine Repellent Alloy Protection, an ingenious system of delivering an electric shock to any dog thinking of relieving itself against a BMW wheel.

The Daily Telegraph featured a story based on BBC footage of a colony of penguins that flies thousands of miles to the rainforests of South America to sunbathe (

With an eye to last week's French state visit, the Sun said diminutive President Nicolas Sarkozy will be stretched five inches to help him see eye to eye with supermodel wife Carla Bruni.


In southern Africa, Zimbabwe's election provided rich material for the newspapers, with front page stories mocking President Robert Mugabe.

Johannesburg paper the Times said Mugabe had been seen around the grounds of the official residence of South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has faced criticism over his "quiet diplomacy" that has failed to end Zimbabwe's crisis.

"I saw a Mugabe looking in the fridge last night. Mbeki is clearly too embarrassed to entertain Mugabe at meal-time," the paper quoted a witness as saying.

It quoted a Mugabe spokesman named as "Roli Flapo" as saying it was "no business of the Western, imperialist, reactionary media whether or not a comrade visits a fridge at any time of day or night."

In Australia, various companies and media organisations got into the swing of April 1 when pranks are allowed until noon with a range of hoaxes designed more to amuse than trick people.

Google Australia announced that it was to launch a new feature "enabling you to search for content on the Internet before it is created" so you could get tomorrow's news today including share prices and sports results. (


Virgin Blue, Australia's second-largest airline, put an advert in newspapers across Australia that read: "Stand Up and Be Discounted," offering half price fares if passengers would stand for a flight with a complimentary calf massage for flights of over two hours.

"We've had over 1,000 click-throughs onto the Web site we set up ( and people had a very good humor about it. We like to have a bit of fun," said Virgin Blue spokeswoman Leonie Vandeven.

April Fools' Day dates back centuries but its origins remain unclear.

The Museum of Hoaxes, a Web site set up by self-described "hoaxpert" Alex Boese in 1997, said references began to appear in the late Middle Ages.

But Boese said the most widespread theory about its origin dates back to late 16th century, when France switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar meaning the start of the year moved from late March to January 1.

Those who continued to celebrate the New Year during the week that fell between March 25 and April 1 had various jokes played on them. Boese said there was no evidence to back this.

But not all April Fools hoaxes work out.

The worst hoax, according to Boese, was in 1998 when a newspaper owned by Saddam Hussein's son Uday informed readers that U.S. President Bill Clinton had decided to lift sanctions against Iraq. It admitted later that it was just joking.

He does, however, list the top 100 April Fools' Day hoaxes, which is headed by the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. This dates back to 1957 when the BBC news show Panorama announced Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop due to a mild winter with footage of Swiss peasants pulling spaghetti strands from trees.

Boese said April Fools' Day has never been a widely celebrated tradition but he believed pranks are becoming more common with the Internet offering fertile ground.

"Also advertisers have come to realize that a funny prank can generate lots of good publicity," he said in an e-mail.

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