Also, Professor Dr.
Hüsing from the University of Halle, an acknowledged specialist of the Salzhaff
and its local fauna, supported this point of view.
Additionally: As the
peninsula called Wustrow was in use as an army training ground for the Soviet
forces, by this time already a nature refuge had grown on the North West side
of the Salzhaff. Here different species of plants and animals found a home
without human influence. Because nobody dared to go, where eventually rests of
ammunition were laying. And the few animals getting in trouble with ammunition
– the Soviet troops were not disturbed by explosions from time to time.
But how should a
crocodile-like animal have made it to the Salzhaff? On October 17th
1970 the “Ostsee-Zeitung” published another photo, made by a resident of the
Salzhaff near the village of Roggow: He was able to capture a giant animal on
an old landing stage, obviously taking a rest to enjoy the last rays of the
sun. This event was followed by sightings of the animal close to Pepelow, near
Tessmannsdorf, and even directly off Rerik.
The Roggow photography too was sent immediately to Professor Lastemann in
Bitterfeld, who had one conclusion after extensively studying the picture: The
photographed animal is without any doubt a reptile of the species Cuban
Crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer), a
crocodile species just at home in Cuba and Central America. The reason for
Lastemann’s conclusion: the characteristic set of teeth, generally
distinguishing crocodiles from alligators, and the typical shape of the scales
on the back of the animal.
What stayed a miracle
then – how an animal like this could reach the Salzhaff at all – might be
explainable today. Because some time ago, in the leftovers of a former Soviet
Navy soldier, who died in Spring 2017, files showed up in Leningrad solving the
riddle of the animal in the German Salzhaff.
In the year 1960 Piotr R. was as a seaman of the Soviet Navy, and not just on
voyages to the Northern Ocean. But also he was on travels to bring nuclear
weapons to Cuba, which nearly had caused World War III during the Cuban Crisis.
He brought back from his travel a small personal souvenir, a gift from a dancer
in Habana, which was a little crocodile of about two feet length.
So far so good. For about two years he kept it – following his notes – on his
current ships respectively in the barracks, where he was commissioned to. In
1963, he was deployed to the troops on the Wustrow peninsula in the meantime,
the mishap happened:
The soldiers had been waiting for construction material from the surrounding
town. Among them Piotr R. What he didn’t suspect: The “little” souvenir from
Cuba had become so strong in the meantime, that it unobserved could push open
the gate of its cage and escape into freedom. Now it had two alternatives close
to the isthmus called Wustrower Hals, which were the open Baltic Sea or the
Professor Dr. Krohkose
from the acclaimed biological department of Frankfurts Sänftenberg-Museum
explained on request in the recent week: “Who has expertise with crocodiles
knows, that the Cuban species does not prefer the open sea, but more likely
quiet inland waters.” According to Krohkose the decision for the animal was
easy: The Salzhaff became the new domestic domicile for the exotic reptile.
But why haven’t there been
more sightings until the aforesaid year 1970? Krohkose laughs: “An animal of
not at all three feet in such a huge stretch of water? There are fishes which
are much bigger and even the fishermen don’t find them often.”
But within seven years
even in the Salzhaff a crocodile gets bigger. Although, so the biologist, the
growth is not comparable to the sizes in the Caribbean, even in the Salzhaff
such an animal could grow up to a really respectable length.
And with the weight
the self-confidence grows. So, it is no wonder, that the more than seven feet
long reptile dared to take its sun bath at the bank of the Salzhaff near
Now there is just one question left: What happened to the Cuban Crocodile after
1970? Sightings had not reported after. Did the Soviet troops catch it? Or
could it still be there? Professor Krohkose:
“If it is still living
in the Salzhaff, it might have taken profit from the Germen Unification. Until
1990 visitors were not allowed around Wustrow because of the Soviet training
area. Later they were not allowed, because the peninsula became private
property. The reed-belts of the Salzhaff are large and give sufficient hiding
places. So, if the crocodile didn’t die, it may live happily ever after…” and
Krokohse laughs. But with a view on the dangers for the tourism and the
visitors of the Salzhaffs this is surely no old story to laugh about.
At least, many of you surely remember the
story. You don’t remember? Well, may be everything is just completely made