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Taming of the crocodile Sifis

17 August 2014 / 13:08:09  GRReporter
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After Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Madagascar and French Guiana, Olivier Berra is packing his bags for Rethymno where he is meeting the crocodile Sifis. His arrival is being prepared for the end of August. The world famous French specialist in crocodiles talks for Ethnos newspaper.

Did you ever imagine that you would come to Greece to search for ... a crocodile?

Never, really never. The water in which I work is so different from the blue waters even of the lakes in Greece! Swampy waters of Central Africa and South America, full of diseases ... nothing in common! But when one of my Greek friends told me about Sifis, I said to myself that I would be happy to help, if necessary. There followed contacts with people in Rethymno, and so it started.

You have travelled all over the planet. Have you ever been invited to help in such a case?

Only once, in the capital of Madagascar, in a place where there should not be crocodiles, I was called to capture a crocodile that was seen in a residential area. But I have never had anything like this in Europe. Sifis is the first!

Experts are trying to capture Sifis with chicks in a trap, but it won’t go for it. Where is the mistake?

As far as I can see, the trap is well planned. However, there is one mistake, or rather an omission - bait has to be placed around the trap as well in order to attract the crocodile - but this needs experience. In any case, crocodiles do not eat much. And I believe that Sifis is sated. Perhaps putting a trap in the water would be a good solution.

How easy is it to tame a crocodile?

If it is very small, it is very easy. If it is just small - just easy. If it is medium size, things become more difficult. However, if it is very big, ability and energy are needed. From the pictures I understand that it is a medium-size crocodile.

What would be the best scenario for the crocodile in Rethymno?

I am impressed by the professionalism of the people involved in this. Firstly, they asked me about the risk to the population, and then they analyzed seriously various options. Sifis must remain on Crete, but in a place where it does not cause danger to swimmers or passers by.

Crocodiles are sensitive, but I believe Sifis can remain in good condition on the island, without major costs. It will depend on the local authorities who will decide what its fate will be. They can consult specialists or me.

Can Sifis live on Crete? Can Greece be a home to a crocodile?

I do not know whether Sifis can survive winter temperatures in Greece, because I need more information. Some small alligators live in China where it is very cold in the winter, and some crocodiles in the mountains of Africa can withstand temperatures below 5 or 10 degrees for several days and nights.

That is, the answer will depend on the conditions in the lake, combined with the species of the crocodile – you know that there are 23 species of crocodiles. Sifis’s species should be identified. And of course, if there is a second crocodile...

When are you arriving on Crete? Do you need some training?

Probably by the end of August. Even if it is captured by then, I will have to come to see what sex it is - we call it Sifis, but we do not know whether it is male or female.

Furthermore, it would be good to help with the transport, as well as for the conditions under which it will live well afterwards. My preparation consists of a small motor boat that we will bring into the lake. I have to train someone to operate it. I also need a good tent. I am going to stay at the lake for two nights and I am sure that we will achieve something.

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