The Pope and the Cuban crocodile

2012-03-27 Vatican Radio

And now for a story you may already have heard something of…

It’s about a Cuban crocodile who actually met the Pope a few weeks ago, and happily was flown back home shortly afterwards, to be returned to its natural habitat and hopefully live happily ever after…

Seeing the crocodile off in mid March, the Vatican Substitute for General Affairs Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu said the initiative symbolizes “respect for nature and friendship between nations.”

It all started one Wednesday morning in January when representatives of Rome's Zoo attended Pope Benedict's General Audience to mark 100 years from the foundation of the Zoo itself.

Amongst those attending was Yitzhak Yadid, a Zoo official and the keeper of a tiny crocodile from Cuba who also was present at the audience.

Veronica Scarisbrick went to see Yadid at Rome Zoo, and discovered that the croc belongs to endangered species and had illegally been smuggled into Italy.

He told her the reptile's sad story which was confiscated from a woman who had smuggled it into Italy strapped to her leg with some tape. The woman kept the crocodile for a while in her home in Northern Italy, but it was discovered by the Police and taken into custody.

The woman, who says she took the crocodile directly from the wild, indicated the area from which she removed him.

Yadid says the crocodile was not well looked after and fed, that's why the crocodile is still so small (only about 40 cm. long).

Yadid said they are hoping to obtain a series of permits from the Cuban government in order to be able to reintstate him in his natural environment.

Well, happily, after Veronica did that interview, permits for the crocodile to travel were obtained and Rome zoo organised a lavish send-off for the animal, attended by children waving Vatican, Cuban, and Italian flags.

He is now adapting to the climate in Havana zoo, but plans are to release him back into nature as soon as he is ready...

listen to the interview...