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).
The kri-kri has a light brownish coat with a darker band around its
neck. It has two horns that sweep back from the head. In the wild they
are shy and avoid humans, resting during the day. The animal can leap
some distance or climb seemingly sheer cliffs.
The kri-kri is not thought to be indigenous to Crete, most likely
having been imported to the island during the time of the Minoan
civilization. Nevertheless, it is found nowhere else and is therefore
endemic to Crete. It was once common throughout the Aegean but the
peaks of the 2,400 m (8,000 ft) White Mountains of Western Crete
are their last strongholds—particularly a series of almost vertical
900 m (3,000 ft) cliffs called 'the Untrodden'—at the head of
the Samaria Gorge. This mountain range, which hosts another 14 endemic
animal species, is protected as a
UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. 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 a population below 200. It
had been the only meat available to mountain guerillas during the
German occupation in World War II. Its status was one reasons why the
Samaria Gorge became 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 the population has interbred with ordinary goats. Hunting
them is strictly prohibited.
Minoan rhyton from the Palace of Zakros, depicting a rocky landscape
with Cretan goats.
Archaeological excavations have unearthed several depictions of the
kri-kri. Some academics believe that the animal was worshiped during
antiquity. On the island, males are often called 'agrimi' (Greek:
αγρίμι, i.e. 'the wild one'), while the name 'sanada' (Greek:
σανάδα) is used for the female. The kri-kri is a symbol of the
island, much used in tourism marketing and official literature.
As molecular analyses demonstrate, the kri-kri is not, as previously
thought, a distinct subspecies of wild goat. Rather, it is a feral
domestic goat, derived from the first stocks of goats domesticated in
Levant and other parts of the Eastern
8000-7500 BCE. Therefore, it represents a nearly ten-thousand-year-old
"snapshot" of the first domestication of goats.
In any case, the kri-kri is an emblem of
Crete and has immense
cultural significance there. 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.
Auckland Island Pig, redomesticated pig population
Campbell Island cattle, exterminated feral cattle population
Chillingham Cattle and White Park, culturally significant (semi-)feral
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Capra aegagrus creticus.
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.
Manceau, V. et al. (1999): Systematics of the genus Capra inferred
from mitochondrial DNA sequence data. Molecular Phylogenetics and