Kri-kri

Kri-kri
Conservation status: Vulnerable

Kri kri, Capra aegagrus creticus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Caprinae
Genus: Capra
Species: Capra aegagrus
Subspecies: C. a. creticus
Trinomial name
Capra aegagrus creticus
(Schinz, 1838)

The Kri-kri (Capra aegagrus creticus), sometimes called the Cretan goat, Agrimi, or Cretan Ibex, was considered a subspecies of Wild Goat. The Kri-kri is a large ungulate native to the Eastern Mediterranean, now found only on the island of Crete, Greece and three small islands just offshore (Dia, Thodorou and Agii Pandes).

The Kri-kri is impressive-looking, with 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.

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 the early 1960s. 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 more scarce 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 they males are often called 'agrimi', 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. While this may affect its legal conservation status, 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 should be considered valuable in its own right.

Capra Aegagrus Creticus

References

  • 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

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