NICOSIA (Reuters Life!) - Wildlife experts in Cyprus are trying to verify reports that a crocodile is on the loose after a farmer says she got the fright of her life with it staring her in the face.
The August 4 sighting at a mountain village some 50 km west of the capital Nicosia has prompted authorities to set traps and bait to catch the runaway reptile, which is not indigenous to the Mediterranean island. "We have not found anything that suggests there is something there, but we will keep on looking," said Constantinos Moustakas of the Cyprus Fisheries and Marine Research Department.
The woman, who keeps rabbits and owns a small vegetable patch, was apparently gardening when she came across the reptile. It is unclear if it was an alligator, or a crocodile.
"I had bent down to collect grass for the rabbits and I heard a ... sound and looked up. It was straight ahead..its mouth was open," Stavroulla Dikaiou was quoted as telling Politis newspaper.
"It was about 1.5 meters long and had a scaly body,"
It is not the first time speculation has surfaced on alligators or crocodiles on the prowl in Cyprus, without anything being found.
Authorities cannot dismiss the possibility that some may have been imported as exotic pets, then dumped when they got too large to handle.
Neither species breed in Cyprus, and its closest relative on the island is the much smaller, shy and innocuous chameleon.
Moustakas said it was unlikely that it was an over-sized chameleon. "She said it opened its mouth and growled at her. It looks like she got a good look at it."
Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Steve Addison