Kri-kri

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Kri-kri
Kri kri.jpg
Adult, Samaria Gorge National Park, Crete
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Caprinae
Genus: Capra
Species: C. aegagrus
Subspecies: C. a. cretica
Trinomial name
Capra aegagrus cretica
(Schinz, 1838)

The kri-kri (Capra aegagrus cretica), sometimes called the Cretan goat, Agrimi, or Cretan Ibex, is a feral goat inhabiting the Eastern Mediterranean, previously considered a subspecies of wild goat. The Kri-kri is now found only on the island of Crete, Greece and three small islands just offshore (Dia, Thodorou and Agii Pantes).

Close-up of adult, Samaria Gorge National Park

The Kri-kri has a light brownish coat with a darker band around its neck. It has two horns swept back from the head. In the wild, they are shy and rest during the day. They avoid tourists and can leap some distance or climb seemingly sheer cliffs.

Adult female in natural habitat, Samaria Gorge National Park

The Kri-kri is not thought to be indigenous to Crete, but was imported during the time of the Minoan civilization. Nevertheless, it is found nowhere else and the form is therefore endemic to Crete. It was common throughout the Aegean but their last stronghold is among the peaks of the 8,000 ft (2,400 m) White Mountains of Western Crete — particularly on a series of almost vertical 3,000 ft (900 m) cliffs called 'the Untrodden'—at the head of the Samaria Gorge. This particular mountain range, which hosts another 14 endemic animal species, is protected as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve mountain range. In total, their range extends to the White Mountains, the Samaria National Forest and the islets of Dia, Thodorou, and Agii Pandes. Recently some were introduced onto two more islands.

By 1960, the Kri-kri was under threat with numbers below 200. It had been the only meat available to mountain guerillas during the German occupation in World War II. Its status was one of the reasons for the Samaria Gorge becoming a national park in 1962. There are still only about 2,000 animals on the island and they are considered vulnerable: hunters still seek them for their tender meat, grazing grounds have become scarcer and disease has affected them. Hybridization is also a threat, as their gene pool is mingled with ordinary goats. Hunting them is strictly prohibited.

Archaeological excavations have found several wall paintings of the kri-kri. Some academics believe that this animal was worshiped on the island during antiquity. On the island the males are often called 'agrimi' (αγρίμι, 'the wild one'), while the name 'Sanada' is used for the female. The Kri-kri is a symbol of the island much used in tourist resorts and official literature, although few tourists or even locals have ever seen one.

As molecular analyses demonstrate, the Kri-kri is not, as previously thought, a distinct subspecies of the wild goat. Rather, it is a feral domestic goat derived from the first stocks of domesticated goats in the Levant and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean around 8000-7500 BC. In any case, the Kri-kri is an emblem of Crete, had an immense cultural significance in the history of that island, and thus the preservation of what represents a nearly ten thousand year-old "snapshot" of the first domestication of goats could be considered valuable in its own right. Legally however, endangered species legislation would likely not apply (as this does not cover feral populations), but similar cases elsewhere have been covered under cultural heritage protection laws.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Bar-Gal, G. K. et al. (2002): Genetic evidence for the origin of the agrimi goat (Capra aegagrus cretica). Journal of Zoology 256:369-377. DOI:10.1017/S0952836902000407
  • Manceau, V. et al. (1999): Systematics of the genus Capra inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequence data. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 13:504-510