• Germany edition
 
Magdeburg waterworks keeps crocodile mascot
Photo: DPA

Magdeburg waterworks keeps crocodile mascot

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

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

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Glass memorial honours Nazi disabled victims
Floral tributes were laid on Tuesday at the new Holocaust memorial in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Glass memorial honours Nazi disabled victims

A 24-metre blue glass wall in Berlin has been unveiled to commemorate the systematic murder of up to 300,000 mentally ill and disabled people under Adolf Hitler. READ  

Germany to help with Mediterranean refugees
Migrants aboard an Italian navy patrol vessel in April 2014. Photo: DPA

Germany to help with Mediterranean refugees

Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière on Tuesday pledged support for his Italian colleague in the struggle to manage refugees trying to reach the European Union via its southern coast. READ  

Ice bucket challenge raises €500,000 in a week
Elephant Nelly takes part in the ice bucket challenge in a Lower Saxony safari park. Photo: DPA

Ice bucket challenge raises €500,000 in a week

The coffers of the German Society for Muscular Disease (DGM) are overflowing with donations thanks to the viral craze for videos of donors dousing themselves with ice-cold water. READ  

Russian-German school opens in teeth of conflict
The GRIAT will open in the Russian city of Kazan. Photo: Shutterstock

Russian-German school opens in teeth of conflict

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is pressing ahead with its German-Russian Institute of Advanced Technologies (GRIAT) against a backdrop of international tensions over Ukraine. READ  

Schweinsteiger is new Germany captain: Löw
Photo: DPA

Schweinsteiger is new Germany captain: Löw

Bastian Schweinsteiger will replace fellow Bayern Munich player Philipp Lahm as captain of the German national football team, head trainer Joachim Löw said on Tuesday. READ  

Munich minister resigns in 'model car scandal'
Christine Haderthauer at her resignation press conference in Munich on Monday. Photo: DPA

Munich minister resigns in 'model car scandal'

Christine Haderthauer, head of the Bavarian state chancery, resigned “with immediate effect” on Monday evening over the so-called “model car scandal” in which her company sold scale models built by a man convicted of three sexual murders. READ  

Russia 'severed' from Europe: President Gauck
President Gauck stands shoulder to shoulder with President Komorowski of Poland in Gdansk on Monday. Photo: DPA

Russia 'severed' from Europe: President Gauck

Russia has "effectively severed its partnership" with Europe and wants to establish a new order, German President Joachim Gauck said on Monday. READ  

National Uber ban is revenge of the taxis
Taxis are a powerful trade lobby in Germany. Photo: DPA

National Uber ban is revenge of the taxis

The Frankfurt regional court has imposed a temporary nationwide ban on chauffeur car service Uber, saying that it must pay a €250,000 fine if passengers continue to book rides through its app. READ  

Sex party 'desecrates' Bavarian royal spa
The facade of the Bad Reichenhall Royal Spa Hotel.

Sex party 'desecrates' Bavarian royal spa

The Bavarian finance ministry has demanded a report from the company running a publicly-owned spa in the town of Bad Reichenhall after they rented the property out for a fetish party. READ  

Merkel details Iraq arms shipment to MPs
Angela Merkel addressing the Bundestag on Monday as her ministers look on. Photo: DPA

Merkel details Iraq arms shipment to MPs

UPDATE: Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the Bundestag on Monday to explain her government's decision to send weapons to Iraqi Kurds fighting terrorist group Isis. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
Photo: Shutterstock
Gallery
Ten of the oddest things found by German border control
Photo: Gerkan, Marg and Partners/Tegel Projekt GmbH/J. Mayer
Berlin
How will Berlin look in five years' time?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? 10 reasons why you should
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The best of Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit in 14 pictures
Photo: DPA
Politics
Germany sends burgers and sausages to Kurds
Photo: Matthias Kock
National
Tribes, ties and a movie: A German's Afghan life
Photo: DPA
Gallery
10 things to do before summer in Germany is really over
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The mysteries of Berlin's abandoned theme park
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,412
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd