Cretan Fauna


Cretan ibex
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The proud Cretan wild goat (scient. Capra aegagrus creticus), also known as agrimi, wild goat, or Cretan Ibex is an endemic subspecies of wild goat, is the only species of ibex in Europe. According to the genetic characteristics, the wild goat was introduced in Crete from Asia and then came to contact with the ordinary goats on the island, while retaining many of the genetic characteristic of its Asian cousins.

By the early 20th century, ibexes were spreads in all three major mountain ranges of Crete (White Mountains, Ida and Dikte), but their natural population is currently limited to just 700 kids (2010), all living in the National Park of Samaria, in the White Mountains, in an area of 150,000 acres. The goats almost disappeared from all the mountains of Crete during the Second World War, as the guerillas had no other source of food. In 1960, there were only 200 goats in the White Mountains, and therefore Samaria was declared a National Park in 1962. Even today wild goats in the White Mountains are threatened by illegal hunting, limited grazing areas and diseases. However, hybridization is a principal threat for conserving the subspecies alive, as their gene pool is mingled with ordinary goats.

To maintain subspecies, several wild goats have been transferred to the protected island Thodorou in Chania, and from there to other islets, the most important largest being Sapientza in Peloponnese (200 individuals). Morever, kids were introduced to the islands Hai Bai in Israel, Agii Pantes in Agios Nikolaos, Moni near Aegina, Atalantonisi in Fthiotida and the National Park of Parnes. Moreover, a small population was introduced near Heraklion, on the island of Dia, but due to hybridization with domestic kids, the authorities still try to remove the last remaining 3-4 goats in Dia, but they cannot be located (except from their dung) and then reintroduce the pure individuals.

The Cretan ibex has dark brown coat which, during the mating season in October and November, becomes lighter. There is a black strip on its back, from head to tail, and the males have a long beard. Moreover, it has two horns swept back from the head that reach 1m in males. Its body length reaches 1.30-1.40m and males reach 40kg. When the ibexes get 10 years old, their coat color gets lighter, and they usually live for 11-12 years.

The goat eats shoots and leaves of shrubs and low trees, grasses and broadleaf herbs. It prefers rocky areas with steep slopes, as it can jump over 8 meters. In the summer, it moves to higher altitudes.

The wild goat of Crete forms same-sex herds of up to 20 people, except the breeding season, in which there is a hierarchy, with older and physically bigger males dominating. During the breeding period they form harems, while during their first year, the young kids follow females. Wild goats are very shy animals and do not approach tourists.

Archaeological excavations have found several wall paintings of the kri-kri. Some academics believe that this animal was worshiped on the island during antiquity. But even today, it is an emblem for the island of Crete.

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