Crete croc to get Christmas treat
Andy Cornish: December 2014
Crete's notorious crocodile looks likely to be tucking into a Christmas dinner treat this year thanks to some local fans.
Local villagers are determined to serve up a Christmas piglet for the croc they call 'Sifis' who now lives permanently in a lake near Rethymnon.
The crocodile that was discovered in an artificial Cretan lake this summer has since become a local sensation and a major tourist attraction.
Although the Cretan croc is thought to diet mainly on duck, locals think a piglet would be a welcome seasonal gift to the lake carnivore.
All efforts to capture the elusive two-metre long croc failed this summer and Sifis turned into something of a local celebrity.
No-one know how the create found its way into the lake that lies in the wetland area around Potami Dam in the Amari valley just south of the city of Rethymnon.
Reptile experts were called in to catch the croc but they all failed to lure it into their traps. Even a much publicised attempt by TV's Discovery Channel celebrity Oliver Behra couldn't bring home the bacon so to speak.
Other attempts to net the creature failed when local rallied to the defence of the creature by using megaphones to disturb nighttime croc capturing expeditions.
According to Rehymnon news reports the croc has been living in lush vegetation that has grown up around a 12 kilometre wide artificial lake created by a dam.
The piglet may be a tasty Christmas treat for Sifis but officials are now concerned that the croc doesn't get a taste for humans during the Epiphany celebrations planned after Christmas.
It's traditional for young men to dive into the cold post-Christmas water to 'catch a holy cross' thrown in by Greek Orthodox priests.
The president of the local Pantanassa Cultural Association, Constantinos Ieronimakis, has revealed that they are thinking of performing the custom of 'diving for the cross' in the Sifis wetland next year.
The custom of the Epiphany is performed all over Greece on January 6th and consists of a priest throwing a holy cross in the water to sanctify it and local men and boys diving in to retrieve the cross.
"The ceremony will take place here. I don't have a problem diving first to catch the cross," the president has told a local newspaper.
He added: "We will all go there for the ceremony. Sifis is not dangerous. I see him every day outside the dam and when he sees people, he runs scared into the water. All the hunting has made him nervous."
There is no doubt that Sifis has given a boost to the local economy and crocodile sightseeing trips have become popular with Crete holiday tourists.
But local officials are worried that the lake could become a 'crocodile colony' following the reported sightings of another croc in the area.
the local mayor has ruled out allowing Sifis to remain as a Crete tourist attraction warning that Rethymnon had absolutely 'no ambition to have crocodile reproduction in its ecosystem.'
How Sifis got into the lake remains a mystery but there is no doubting his popularity with the locals with souvenir shops turning out T-shirts, badges and even blow-up crocodiles and even the Greek TV stations showing adverts featuring Sifis the Croc.