• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Magdeburg waterworks keeps crocodile mascot

The Local · 23 Apr 2013, 10:57

Published: 23 Apr 2013 10:57 GMT+02:00

Theophila, a nile crocodile, arrived in the communist country as a thank you from the Malian town of Kayes for building its waterworks some four decades ago. Just 22 centimetres long, the boss of the Colbitz water plant at the time, Gunter Hellmann, never imagined she would still be paddling around today.

“The African mentality then was that [East Germany] could do anything,” he explained. This included, it would seem, caring for an exotic reptile at a sewage plant.

Initially the tiny croc was kept in a little terrarium in the offices of the water and sewage treatment department of Magdeburg's town council. But she kept growing, and was soon too big for her home. The city's zoo refused to take her as she was already too big and expensive to care for, so the waterworks became her new home.

Hellmann, who had helped build the Kayes plant, became her ersatz-father. “We used to joke that she was our water tester,” he said. Indeed, some plants do have fish to monitor the quality of the drinking water but Theophila actually lives in a separate, reptile-appropriate, area as letting a 280 kilogramme crocodile swim free in the reservoir would be far too dangerous.

A few snaps of Theophila

After East Germany crumbled in 1989, attempts were made to force Colbitz to get rid of Theophila. Keeping a crocodile was, officials said, far too risky. But Hellmann, now 75 and retired, claimed he successfully thwarted any efforts, and the croc was allowed to stay providing they could build her a bigger home.

In recent years, Theophila has proved something of a local mascot. She not only reflects the quality of care that goes into cleaning water but has put water treatment on the map, spokesman for Magdeburg's drinking water supplier TWM said.

Testament to her popularity are the visitors that travel to see her regularly and the more than 15,000 crocodile key rings that Colbitz has sold.

Current boss at the plant is 57-year-old Ingolf Kriegel, who has taken over from Hellmann in feeding Theophila once every two to three weeks and making sure she seems content. Nile crocodiles can grow up to six metres and live 100 years but “there's nothing stressful here so maybe she'll live longer,” said Kriegel, adding that crocodiles are solitary creatures so she shouldn't get lonely.

Hellmann likes to visit Theophila four to five times a year to see how she's doing. “I know she's in good hands,” he said.

Story continues below…

Although six years ago, both Hellmann and Kriegel had a surprise when they found unfertilized eggs in the croc's cage. Until then, Theophila was called Theophil, because they presumed she was a boy. Her name was swiftly changed to be gender appropriate.

Animal rights advocates have voiced concern about keeping a crocodile in captivity but agree that after 40 years, she can't be released to the wild. Instead, Theophila was a prime example of why animals should not be given as gifts, representatives from pressure group Peta said.

DPA/The Local/jcw

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
I’m ashamed of Germany’s refugee failure: Green leader
Cem Özdemir. Photo: DPA

The head of the Green Party has responded angrily to Angela Merkel’s speech on refugees on Friday, saying he feels “ashamed at Germany’s failure".

German satirists mock Erdogan (and his penis)
Photo: DPA

Tempting fate?

Huge pro-Erdogan rally puts strain on Turkish community
Erdogan supporters at a rally in 2014. Photo: DPA

Tens of thousands of supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plan to rally in Cologne on Sunday, as tensions over Turkey's failed coup have put German authorities on edge.

Opinion
How the Berlin startup scene is wasting its potential
Photo: DPA

"The truth is, there really isn't a truly successful international Berlin startup."

Five years' jail for German darknet weapons dealer
Photo: DPA

He had sold weapons to known Isis-sympathizers and far-right extremists.

Prickly Bavarian calls out cops on hedgehogs' noisy sex
Photo: DPA

Caught in the act.

International or German state school - which one's best?
Photo: DPA

Deciding between sending your child to a German state school or a private international school isn't easy. Max Bringmann has experienced both.

13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make

Sure-fire ways to get off on the wrong foot in the German language.

Captain Schweinsteiger retires from international football
Bastian Schweinsteiger. Photo: DPA

He has won a World Cup with Die Mannschaft and captained them at Euro 2016. On Friday Bastian Schweinsteiger announced his retirement from the national team.

Woman accused of false rape allegation at Cologne NYE
Cologne on New Year's Eve. Photo: DPA

According to latest reports, the woman was not even in Cologne on New Year's Eve.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
DPA
Gallery
IN PICTURES: How Munich responded to shooting spree
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
Bavaria train attack: Were police right to shoot to kill?
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
10,786
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd