“There are two crocodiles in the canal,” the old lady said. “I know, because I put them there.”
Yes, there’s an elderly lady in Paris who says she let two small crocodiles loose into the Canal Saint-Martin in Paris in 2016.
We had no idea she was going to admit this to The Earful Tower podcast, in fact, we were doing a story about beavers. But funny things happen when you turn on the microphone.
Here’s the journey that we took as a result of the lady’s confession, which led us into the Paris sewers, to the office of a Paris Mayor, and to the far reaches of France, Australia, and deepest Africa.
I’d highly encourage you to listen to the story and enjoy it as it unravels – but scroll down if you want more information about the story and pictures from it.
And yes, this was the season two finale – and we told this story to a live audience in Paris. Photos and videos from the event are on the way (and some pics are already on Facebook).
A bit of background: If you’ve never heard of the Canal Saint-Martin, it runs through the tenth arrondissement of Paris, is like a magnet for hipsters to hang out in the summer, and was even made famous as a stone-skimming spot for in the 2001 hit film Amelie.
And it was into this canal that the old lady – the star of this episode – released two small crocodiles back in 2016.
This was, crucially, right after the city hall authorities organized a mammoth draining and cleaning of the canal… In other words, the crocodiles could both still be swimming around down there.
The mayor of the fourth arrondissement told us that what she did was illegal, so we’ve protected her identity. But if she’s telling the truth, it really got us thinking.
Marine Biologist James Gee weighed in on the debate, and he estimates the crocodiles could be up to 100 kg each by now (220 pounds) and up to one-metre long – if they’re still alive, of course. If the crocodiles are a male and female, he pointed out that they may even be a breeding pair. He also speculates what this might mean for the future of the canal (and Paris).
The rest of the story will take you on twists and turns, including a chat with the Aquarium de Vannes in western France, which houses a three-metre crocodile called Eleanore that was found in the Paris sewers in 1984.
It survived for 35 years and is still going strong in an enclosure modelled on the Paris sewer. What about the other two crocodiles though…..?
Here’s a recent video of Eleanore and a picture from when I went to meet her.
If your curiosity is piqued by all this talk of crocodiles, please do listen to the full episode here and be sure to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. New episodes about Paris every week!
Update Jan 2020: We’ve turned crocodiles in Paris into a children’s book, click here for more info!