Kri-Kri: Crete’s most famous animal is
also known as Agrimi, or Cretan goat. The Kri-Kri is the
only wild goat species still living in Europe. The Kri-Kri
came very close to extinction at one point, but thanks to
conservation efforts, their numbers have since increased
to 2500. Most of these live in and around the Samaria
Gorge and some of the uninhabited satellite islands. It is
not clear if the Kri-Kri was introduced from Turkey in the
early days of settlement of if they were there prior to
humanity. As a tourist, it’s very unlikely you’ll see one,
because the Kri-Kri is a very shy animal. There are some
in the city park of Rethymno, but I was told they were not
there anymore on my last visit in summer 2008). Please
note that most Cretans call the Kri-Kri ‘Agrimi’.
Cretan Wild Cat (Latin Felis Silvestris Agrius, Greek
Fourokattos): The rarest mammals in Europe – there are
only a handful left.
Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus Monachus): Like most
seals in the world they were hunted for their skin. The
few left are now living in protected zones on the
uninhabited islands to the south of Crete.
Cretan Spiny Mouse (Acomys Minous): This is another
species of animal which can only be found on Crete. The
Cretan Spiny Mouse lives in dry, rocky areas.
You’ll often see dolphins in the seas around Crete. They
sometimes follow ferries. Whales are a considerably rarer
sight in this area of the Mediterranean, but they have
The following mammals exist in Greece, but NOT on Crete:
Foxes (rabies is therefore rare to non-existent on Crete),
wolves, deers, wild boars, chamois, ibex and brown bears.
These mammals do exist on Crete: Mice (common vole, house
mice), hedgehogs, rats, badgers (Crete has its own
subspecies of badger), hares, rabbits, weasels, ermines,
various animals from the mustelidaes family, and various
species of bat.
Vultures: If you go up to the mountain regions of Crete,
you may well see the spectacle of vultures circling in the
air. They are looking for carrion. Rumour has it that some
hikers, having died after an accident, provided these
birds with a meal. More typically though, vultures eat
dead goats, rabbits and sheep. Griffon Vultures (Gyrates
Fulvous) are more common than Bearded Vultures.
Golden Eagles (Apulia Chrysaetos): These can be seen
sometimes, but they’re just as rare in Crete as they are
in the other mountainous regions of Europe. On the south
coast, near Matala, you can find ospreys (Pandion
Other birds on Crete: To mention a few; Buzzards,
kestrels, Eleonora’s falcons, woodchats, shrikes, shoughs,
bitterns, storks, quails, coots, mallards, blackbirds,
sparrows and pigeons. In the north west of Crete there are
Crete is an excellent place to go birdwatching in Spring,
since many migratory birds pass over on their way from
Africa to Europe. You can also see purple flamingos
(Phoenicopterus Ruber) at this time of year.
Other Animals: The rare Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta
Caretta) is a famous visitor to Crete. Whilst they don’t
live their, the females visit some beaches on the north
coast to lay their eggs. These beaches, most near to big
cities like Rethymno,
Matala, take about one
thousand nests a year. The turtles bury their eggs in the
sand, but are disturbed at night-time by lights.
Enviromentalists have been fighting for more protection on
beaches against hotels, bars and lobbying the government.
The nests are often marked. Do not use any lights on the
beach at night-time.
Sharks Crete: There are very few sharks, and
accidents are rare – I have never heard of any.
You will see a lot of lizards on your stay in Crete. Some
species are up to 80cm long, but most are far smaller than
that. Chameleons also live in Crete. In spring, you’ll see
a lot of butterflies with many different colours. Nobody
knows how many species of insect live in Crete. In former
times, locusts were a big pest for Crete, attacking in
billions and eating everything in sight. Nowadays locusts
are much rarer, and no problem any more.
Extinct Animals on Crete:
Before humans arrived, Crete was home to dwarf elephants
(Elephas Creticus), which were no bigger than cows.
Continuing in mini-animals, Crete was also home to a
pig-sized hippopotamus (Hippopotamus Creuzbergi) and deer
the size of dogs. These animals are thought to have been
small due to the lack of food on the dry island, and,
lacking natural enemies, did not need strength. They
probably arrived in Crete on driftwood. Unfortunately,
when the first humans came to Crete, they were quickly
extinct; those not killed by humans were decimated by the
dogs bought with them. Many animals met extinction on
Crete in the Ice Age, too. Very few bones have been
located until recent times. Most species mentioned above
became extinct between 15,000 – 5000 BC.