Tree makes sea voyage for Georgia park project

The tree on the boat Image copyright GDS TV
Image caption A tulip tree, all at sea

Images of an enormous tree being transported upright by boat along Georgia's Black Sea coast have gone viral among social media users in the country.

The tulip tree, which is thought to be about 100 years old, is the latest to be selected for life in a new park being created by Georgia's billionaire former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, the Rustavi 2 channel reports. It was uprooted in the western Ajaria region on Wednesday, but transporting a 650-tonne tree complete with the entire root system was no mean feat. Its sheer weight meant workers spent much of the day just trying to get the boat started, the report says.

Mr Ivanishvili's park plans have proved controversial in some quarters, with opponents complaining that he shouldn't be allowed to buy up historic trees and take them away. Protests erupted in the village of Tsikhisdziri in February as a number of trees were removed. "I am developing a park, where I think it is appropriate," he told one protester, later adding that he would ensure at least 10 new trees were planted in exchange.

Photos of the tulip tree floating along the coast have caused amusement for some social media users, with one dubbing it a "swimming tree" and others calling it a "surreal" sight. But while some people are impressed by the scale of the undertaking, there's plenty of criticism from Mr Ivanishvili's opponents; one Facebook user describes it as "idiocy".

Mariam Kanchaveli, an activist with Guerrilla Gardening Tbilsi, told BBC Outside Source she was "mad, sad and at the same time still laughing" while watching the tree sailing to its new owner.

The head of opposition channel Tabula TV, Tamara Chergoleishvili, touched upon Mr Ivanishvili's reputation as a collector of unusual things - among them exotic animals. She remarked dryly: "If he gets fanatically obsessed about gigantic mountains, then it will become a real headache for his people."

Image copyright Rustavi 2
Image caption It took workers hours to get the tree moving because of its weight

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