With the news that movie star Tom Cruise and actress Katie Holmes have produced their first child, celebrity baby hunters are focusing their lenses on a remote corner of Africa where the next glittering arrival is expected.
Hollywood heavyweights Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, who are expecting a baby within weeks, remain holed up in a bleak coastal resort in the African country of Namibia, playing an edgy cat-and-mouse game with photographers eager for pictures that could earn them a fortune.
The spotlight on the celebrity pair -- dubbed ''Brangelina'' by gossip media -- has jolted Namibia, a southwest African country famous chiefly for its empty spaces and some of the largest sand dunes in the world.
Despite warnings from Namibian officials that Jolie and Pitt's privacy will be protected, journalists are streaming to the isolated hamlet of Langstrand, where the couple have taken up residence in the Burning Shore Beach Lodge with stark views of the cold Atlantic and the vast Namib desert.
''They are enjoying the peace and security in Namibia. The security is to keep off you people,'' Samuel Nujoma, governor of Namibia's Erongo area which covers Long Beach, told Reuters.
''We don't want them to be harassed and you have been trying to harass them.'' Regional newspapers have said Jolie, who they say ''fell in love'' with Namibia when making a film there in 2003, is determined to give birth in the country and may be considering giving the child a Namibian name.
She and Pitt already have two adopted children, one from Cambodia and another from Ethiopia.
BIGGER THAN JESUS? How and where the infant is born is of more than passing interest to celebrity ''paparazzi'' photographers, who are hoping to score big with the first pictures of the baby, said to be due on about May 18.
''New York'' magazine, in a recent feature on the hysteria surrounding the Pitt-Jolie pregnancy, said their baby would be more sought-after than that of Cruise and Holmes -- themselves the subject of an intense media hunt before the announcement out of Los Angeles of their daughter's birth on Tuesday.
''Not since Jesus has a baby been so eagerly anticipated,'' said the magazine, which quoted a gossip insider as speculating the child ''could be the most beautiful baby in the world.'' Newspapers in Namibia and South Africa have offered tidbits about the high-profile visitors.
Namibia's Afrikaans-language daily ''Die Republikein'' said Jolie's gynaecologist had approved the maternity facilities at a private hospital in nearby Walvis Bay for what could be an unconventional delivery.
''It's going to be a waterbirth,'' the newspaper said.
But hard news on the baby -- or its celebrity parents -- is almost impossible to come by. The Namibian government is backing a beefy security team that blocks photographers who try to get too close to the hotel, using pepper spray in one case.
The hotel itself is shielded from prying lenses by new shadecloth barriers, while Pitt, Jolie and their entourage fly out of airstrips on visits to other parts of Namibia, including one trip to a game park where it was suggested that lions would keep the paparazzi at bay.
REUTERS PR BD1110