Do you remember when the Pope met the crocodile?
It was back in January when Yitzhak Yadid, an official from Rome’s 100-year-old Bioparco zoo, in a nod to Pope Benedict’s upcoming trip to Cuba, brought to the Wednesday General Audience an endangered Cuban crocodile. About two feet long, the scaly Crocodylus rhombifer had been confiscated from an Italian woman who owned it illegally. The plan was to rehabilitate the young reptile, and then return it to its swampy home in Cuba during the Pope’s visit to that island country.
Today Vatican Radio published an update. According to their report, Archbishop
Giovanni Angelo Becciu, the Vatican Substitute for General Affairs, saw the crocodile off in mid-March, calling the Italian government’s return of the reptile symbolic of “respect for nature and friendship between nations.”
The woman who illegally smuggled the crocodile into Northern Italy admitted that she had taken it from the wild and brought it into the country, taped to her leg. It lived for a while at her home; but police discovered it and took the crocodile into custody. The woman confessed and helped by directing officials to the area where she had found it.
Yadid, who became caretaker for the crocodile and who tried to bring it back to full health, explained that it was necessary to obtain a series of permits from the Cuban government in order to return the baby croc to its natural environment. Vatican Radio reports that after its reporter covered the story, “permits for the crocodile to travel were obtained and Rome zoo organized a lavish send-off for the animal, attended by children waving Vatican, Cuban, and Italian flags.”
The crocodile is still adapting to the warm Cuban climate and is being safeguarded in Havana zoo. Plans are to return him to the wild, as soon as he is ready.