Animals of Crete - the most common animals to be found on Crete these days are domesticated farm animals such as dogs, cats, goats, donkeys, sheep, pigs and chickens.
Native animals are rare due to the reduced habitat on the island, clearing has had a profound effect on the ecology of the island, and the dry Mediterreanean soil and forests take a long time to regenerate.
The island is now dominated by grazing and agriculture; mostly olive and grape production. There are also a growing number of hot houses for other vegetables such as tomatoes and bananas. These traditional agricultural areas don’t hold much habitat for native animals and birds.
Hunting has also had a profound effect on both mammal and bird populations, and is still common today although protected by law. The Cretan character does not bend well to legislation and the message is not getting through to everybody regarding the low populations of many creatures still hunted in the mountains.
Below we will focus on the native animals of Crete.
The most famous of the Cretan animals is the mountain goat named the Kri Kri. These goats are thought to have been brought from Persia thousands of years ago. Most zoologists now treat the goat as native to Crete, and make a distinction between the Kri Kri and domestic goats.
Cretans identify strongly with the mountain goat in his independent, tough character that can survive in the rugged Cretan mountians. The Kri Kri is known as the "wild one" agrimi, αγρίμι. Many symbols of the Kri Kri and names in their honour can be found in Crete. For example the symbol of the Natural History Museum of Crete, left, shows the Kri Kri.
The Kri Kri is a protected species and in 1962 the Samaria Gorge National Park was declared in part to protect these mountain goat herds. Population programs have also been undertaken on some of the larger Cretan islands such as Dia, north of Iraklion, and Thodorou, opposite Plakias and Agii Pandes.
The conservation status of the Kri Kri is "vulnerable". The threats to its population are human disturbance such as recreation/tourism, which is currently ongoing, harvesting such as hunting/gathering which is also ongoing and changes in native species dynamics, such as breeding with other goats, which is also ongoing.
Both of Greece’s only two native mammal species are found on Crete – the Cretan Shrew and the Cretan Spiny Mouse.
Other mammals found on the island are the Cretan marten, badger and dormouse. There are also many reptiles, frogs, insects and molluscs adding to the ecology of the island. There are no deadly snakes, and although scorpion stings in Crete can be very painful to humans, they are not fatal.
On Acrotiri peninsula in Chania is the Park for the Preservation of Fauna and Flora run by the Technical University of Crete. The park is open to visitors between 8am and 4.30pm Monday to Saturday. Here is a quote from the website about fauna in the park:
" There are small mammals such as hares Lepus europaeus, hedgehogs Erinaceus concolor, beech martens Martes foina, badgers Meles meles, least weasels Mustela nivalis, rats and mice Rattus sp. and Mus sp. and bats Tadarida sp., Rhinolophus sp. Pipistrellus sp., Plecotus sp..
The reptiles European cat snake Telescopus fallax, Balkan green lizard Lacerta trilineata Erhard's wall lizard Podarcis erhardii are also encountered in the Park. "
Below is a location map of the Acrotiri Park:
For more information see www.park.tuc.gr
On April 10, 1996 an Italian expedition from the University of Perugia came to Crete with the aim of studying the carnivorous fauna of Crete. It was then that the legendary "Cretan Wild Cat" became reality. A wild cat of Crete was captured in a trap. The existence of this animal was not in question and its capture gave a new perspective to the origins of the Cretan fauna.
|Kri Kri Capra aegagrus creticus|
|Spiny Mouse Acomys minous|
|Shrew Crocidura zimmermanni|
|Beech Martin Martes foina-bunites|
|Badger Meles meles|
|Emporor Dragonfly Anax imperator|
If you have photographs of the animals of Crete to share, please contact us.