Paris is known as the City of Lights, the fashion capital, and the City of Love, but they may have to add city of crocodiles to that list! When you think of Paris, large, scaly reptiles aren’t usually the first things that come to mind, but a rumor has been circulating about a potential croc living in the city sewers for quite some time. Incredibly, those rumors turned out to be true! Let’s learn about the incredible story of a crocodile found living in the sewers of Paris.
Was a crocodile really found living in the city sewers of Paris?
The story of the Parisian crocodile is a wild one that came to a head a few decades ago, back in 1984. Council workers were working on a project in the sewers when they noticed something strange. As they got closer, they realized that a massive creature was in the sewers with them!
Incredibly, a large Nile crocodile had been living in the sewer system near the Seine River in Paris. The crocodile was named Eleanor, and a relocation effort began to help get her out of the sewers. But, how did she get into the sewers? The answer isn’t fully known, but many people believe her to be a pet that grew a bit too big for her home. Unfortunately, many ecological problems begin this way, when humans get a pet, tire of it, and then release it into the wild.
In Eleanor’s case, however, the ecological impacts she caused might have actually been a good thing. Keeping a full-grown crocodile fed is a tough job, and apparently, the rat population in that region of the city had been reduced. Although they didn’t know it till then, Eleanor was potentially the culprit!
As a general rule, crocodiles are very poorly evolved to survive cold temperatures. The heat of the city that kept the sewer systems warm may have also allowed Eleanor to survive much longer than would seem possible. In fact, the inability of crocodiles to tolerate cold is why the American alligator has a much more northerly range than its more aggressive cousin, the American crocodile. Still, despite the odds, Eleanor had survived!
What happened to Eleanor after she was discovered?
Once it was clear that the workers who found Eleanor hadn’t lost their minds, a rescue attempt was initiated. Workers captured the croc and took her to a nearby zoo in Paris. Once she was taken to the zoo, Eleanor was then transferred to an aquarium in a more remote part of France. Incredibly, that wasn’t the end of her story! With a rather famous reputation, people began visiting Eleanor at her new home in Vannes. The best part? Her keepers designed her home to look like a replica of the Paris sewers, just like she was used to!
At her largest, Eleanor had grown to 8 feet long and weighed 550 lbs. Additionally, she was likely around 40 years old when she passed. Once the Vannes aquarium closed in 2020, Eleanor was moved to a reserve in Drôme. With all the stress of moving and her old age, Eleanor ended up passing into crocodile heaven on June 8th, 2021.
Although Eleanor has passed, her story lives on! In fact, a children’s book was written telling the comical story of a crocodile that lived in an apartment in the city. Titled “Kylie the Crocodile in Paris”, it’s quite clear where the inspiration for the story comes from!
Do crocodiles live in sewers in other cities?
Although we can’t be certain of the current situation of some cities across the world, there are most definitely reports of gators and crocs being pulled out of places where they didn’t belong.
One of the most famous examples happened in New York City. There is a rumor that there is a thriving population of alligators living in the storm drains and sewers across town, but that probably isn’t true. What is true, however, is what happened back in 1935. In February, the New York Times ran a story that detailed how a group of boys had spotted an alligator in a sewer and had pulled it up. Measuring 8 feet long, the gator wasn’t a small animal by any means. Most people don’t belive that the gator had been living in the sewers, especially during that time of year. What’s more likely is that it had fallen from a passing boat and swam into the storm drains lining the shores. Whatever the case, Harlem was able to say that they had gators living in their drains!
Although unlikely, some people still believe that there are larger populations of alligators living in the sewers beneath the city. In the book The World Beneath by Robert Daly, Daly writes stories from sewer superintendents and workers about sewer-dwelling gators, most of which measured 2 feet long, that hung out in the smaller pipes where the water flowed much more slowly. Once the superintendent learned of the alligators, he had them exterminated with poisoned food or shot. Still, to this day many people believe that some of them survived. References to gators in the sewers abound in media and it has become something of an urban legend!
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