Cuba

Fidel Castro’s crocodile attacks guest at Swedish aquarium party

Two adult Cuban crocodiles rest inside their enclosure at the Skansen zoo and aquarium in Stockholm in 2015. Zoo director Jonas Wahlstrom says they were originally given as a gift from Fidel Castro to a Soviet cosmonaut four decades ago. At a party held at the aquarium in August, one of the crocodiles jumped up and bit the arm of a Swedish guest, who was hospitalized, according to news reports.
Two adult Cuban crocodiles rest inside their enclosure at the Skansen zoo and aquarium in Stockholm in 2015. Zoo director Jonas Wahlstrom says they were originally given as a gift from Fidel Castro to a Soviet cosmonaut four decades ago. At a party held at the aquarium in August, one of the crocodiles jumped up and bit the arm of a Swedish guest, who was hospitalized, according to news reports. AP

In Sweden, crayfish parties are held in August to commemorate the end of summer. Among the delectables and drinks, a bizarre incident occurred at the Skansen Aquarium in Stockholm: a crocodile once owned by Fidel Castro attacked a guest.

The 75-year-old man was giving a speech while standing atop a stone adjacent to the tank where the two Cuban crocodiles ⁠— a rare species of the reptiles — reside. Then, he laid his arm on the enclosure’s glass barrier.

Taking advantage of the proximity of the man’s limb, the opportunistic predator jumped up the wall, which measured approximately 6 feet high, and bit it, holding onto the arm for about 10 seconds, CNN reported.

According to CNN, the man suffered wounds in the lower arm and hand, and was hospitalized.

The other guests rushed to help the victim, using napkins to stop the bleeding until the ambulance arrived, according to the BBC.

Jonas Wahlström, the aquarium’s owner and event host, told The Local, a Swedish publication, that this was the first time something like this happened with the pair of Cuban crocodiles, who have lived at the aquarium for 40 years.

Crocodiles can live, on average, 30-40 years, and in some cases, 60-70 years. They are among the oldest creatures on Earth, going back 100 million years to the dinosaur era.

He said the aquarium plans to modify the reptiles’ enclosure to prevent a future incident.

“First of all, we have to change a little bit on the walls for the crocodiles so it’s impossible to climb up like they did. And we started that work today,” Wahlström told The Local.

The reptiles came from Cuba. In fact, the owner of the pair was none other than Fidel Castro, who apparently had developed the habit of gifting crocodiles — both embalmed and alive — to his allies.

Castro and Hillary, as the Skansen Aquarium crocodiles are known, were a gift from the late Cuban president to Vladimir Shatalov, the famous Russian cosmonaut, to symbolize the friendship between the two Communist nations in 1978, according to the Independent, a British online newspaper.

Apparently, the reptiles’ presence caused a stir in Shatalov’s home.

“Shatalov took them to Moscow and had them in his apartment until his wife said: ‘No more!’ And then he had to give them to a zoo in Moscow,” Wahlström told AP.

The zoo, however, lacked adequate facilities for crocodiles, so it asked the Skansen Aquarium owner to take them.

Wahlström brought them to Sweden in 1981, transporting them as carry-on luggage. Since then, they have become a fixture at the Swedish Aquarium and their offspring have been sent to different parts of the world ⁠— including Cuba — to preserve the species, which can be found only on the tropical island and other zoos.

So far, it has not been revealed which of the animals perpetrated the attack.

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