BEIRUT: Officials were investigating Wednesday reports of a crocodile in Beirut river, in what could be the first appearance of a reptile of this kind in this small Mediterranean country.
“We have been investigating the presence of crocodiles in Beirut River, as some local reports claimed, since the morning but there are no signs of crocodiles,” said George Gregorian, a spokesperson from Burj Hammoud municipality.
Citizens have been asked to notify the municipality of any further sightings, he added.
A report in Al-Joumhouria newspaper Wednesday claimed that a young crocodile was spotted recently in Beirut River with some witnesses saying that there are more in the area.
The daily, which ran a photo of the alleged crocodile with the story, said that animal was a Nile River crocodile, the second largest reptile in the world after the saltwater crocodile.
Al-Joumhouria also showed footage of the crocodile on its website later in the day.
Executive Director of Animals Lebanon Jason Mier told The Daily Star it was “very possible” the reports of Nile crocodile were true but denied claims there was more than one of the creatures.
The crocodile is reported to be a meter and a half to two meters long, he said.
Mier said he had held meetings with the agriculture minister and the Burj Hammoud mayor all morning, adding that Animals Lebanon was trying to get permission to access the river and capture the animal for transportation to a sanctuary.
Mier said his group has photographs and reports of the creature, adding that these had been sent to world experts for analysis.
“We need a lot of assistance on this,” he added.
Mier said there were reports of the crocodile being spotted on several occasions by workers at a nearby fish slaughterhouse as well as by employees of Sukleen, a private waste management firm. The workers claimed the creature was seen surfacing every two weeks or so over the past few months.
Animals Lebanon Volunteer Marwa Younes said the conditions at Beirut river were ideal for the reptile, as there is a lot of garbage at the estuary to sustain in.
Although no one from the organization has yet to spot the crocodile, Younes said it was probably because it had come out to sunbathe in the morning and had retreated into hiding.
“It probably belonged to someone, and once it got too big, that person must have thrown it in the river,” she said, adding that many pet shops in Lebanon sell baby crocodiles.
Mier said that since this morning, the organization has received a number of calls from citizens claiming to have a pet crocodile at home.