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Authorities puzzled by crocodile spotted on Greek island of Crete

ATHENS, July 8 (Xinhua) -- A two-meter-long crocodile, spotted over the past few days in Crete in the southern Aegean Sea, has puzzled local authorities who are examining ways to capture and relocate the reptile, officials said on Tuesday.

Crocodiles are not native to the country and Greek scientists believe that the reptile was kept as a pet and was abandoned in a man-made lake near a river dam close to the seaside town of Rethymno.

City mayor Yorgos Marinakis confirmed the reptile's presence and planning for an operation to capture it in coming days.

Speaking to local media on Tuesday, locals said that they had first spotted the crocodile two months ago, but were uncertain and hesitated to notify the authorities for fear of being dismissed as pranksters.

A team of Greek scientists has already launched a search for the crocodile and more experts are due to join the operation later this week to trace and capture the reptile alive and relocate it to a tropical environment, local authorities said.

A large part of the area has been cordoned off and locals and tourists are advised not to approach the lake and swim.

The sighting of the crocodile has become a local sensation over the past few hours. Local media named him Manolios and Sifis, two very popular names on the island.

The sighting of a crocodile in Crete is not unprecedented, Dimitris Psaras, representative of a local group for the protection of nature, noted on Tuesday.

In 2009, two 60-centimetres-long crocodiles had been spotted in a parking zone on the island. The reptiles were captured and transferred to a wild-life protection centre.

Psaras called for enhanced measures to address the illegal trade of wild animals.

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