In 1984, Workers Found a Crocodile Living in the Sewers Beneath Paris

By: David Donovan | Published: Jul 10, 2024

Scaly reptiles aren’t usually what come to mind when people think of Paris, but there has long been talk of a possible crocodile living in the city sewers.

Extraordinarily, those tales ended up being fact, here’s the details on the Parisian crocodile.

Council Project

The tale of the Parisian crocodile is a wild one that peaked four decades ago, back in 1984.

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Council worker in fluorescent vest in a sewer

Unsplash user selimarda

In the sewers, council workers were working on a project when they noticed something odd. As they drew nearer, they came to understand that a gigantic animal was in the sewers with them.

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Nile Crocodile

As it turns out, a massive Nile crocodile had been living in the Paris sewer system near the Seine River. 

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Nile crocodiles, taken at the Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm near Stellenbosch, South Africa

Wikimedia Commons user Dewet

The crocodile was named Eleanor, and a migration attempt started to assist with getting her out of the sewers. There were questions over how she ended up there in the first place.

Abandoned Pet

Although the full answer is unknown, many individuals believe that she was once a pet who outgrew her home. 

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Nile crocodile at a watering hole on his way to the water

Flickr user Andy Morffew

Tragically, numerous ecological issues start along these lines, when people get a pet, tire of it, and afterward discharge it into nature.

Pest Control

However, it’s possible that Eleanor’s effects on the environment were actually beneficial. 

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A Poisoned Rat in a suburb of Vancouver

Wikimedia Commons user Earth’sbuddy

It is difficult to feed a mature crocodile, and it appears that the number of rats in that area of the city has decreased. This led people to believe that Eleanor was responsible in hindsight.

Difficult Environment

Crocodiles are extremely poorly adapted to cold environments as a whole. 

Sewer tunnel under Paris with lights visible to the sides and some grates above

Unsplash user Florian Olivo

Eleanor may have been able to survive for much longer than first thought thanks to the city’s heat, which kept the sewer systems warm.

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Regional Differences

As a matter of fact, the failure of crocodiles to endure the cold is the reason the American alligator has a substantially more northerly reach than its more forceful cousin, the American crocodile. 

2017, cuba, jardines aggressor, underwater with teeth visible as mouth is open

Flickr user q phia

Nonetheless, Eleanor had survived despite the odds that were stacked against her.

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Relocation Efforts

A salvage endeavor began once the workers were able to confirm their suspicions about the presence of a crocodile. 

Nile crocodile head with teeth visible on a rock

Flickr user Leigh Bedford

Laborers caught the croc and took her to a zoo close by in Paris. Eleanor was moved to an aquarium in a more remote part of France after being taken to the zoo.

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New Home

After her move people started coming to Eleanor’s new home in Vannes because she was famous.

City walls of Vannes with view of flowers outside and buildings inside

Wikimedia Commons user Myrabella

Her enclosure was designed to mimic the Paris sewers which she was accustomed to by her keepers.

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Life and Death

At her biggest, Eleanor had developed to 8 feet in length and weighed 550 lbs. Additionally, when she passed away, she was probably around 40 years old.

Crest in Drôme with a view of the cathedral and buildings on the side of a hill

Wikimedia Commons user debs-eye

When the Vannes aquarium shut in 2020, Eleanor was moved to a reserve in Drôme. With all the pressure of moving and her advanced age, Eleanor wound up passing on June 8th, 2021.

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Presence Elsewhere

There have been certain reports of gators and crocodiles being removed from locations where they are typically not found in other cities.

View of the Empire State Building in New York City from the Top of the Rock at 30 Rockefeller Plaza during sunset. The tower was illuminated in green in honor of Climate Week NYC.

Wikimedia Commons user Dllu

In New York City, one of the most well-known examples took place. There is a rumor that alligators live in the storm drains and sewers all over the town, but this is probably not true. 

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New York Croc

What actually took place in 1935, on the other hand, is true. In February, the New York Times ran a story that described how a group of young men had discovered a crocodile in a sewer and had pulled it up.

American crocodile exiting a watering hole aerial view

Flickr user Sandy_R

The gator was sizable at 8 feet long. The likeliest reason for its presence there is that it had tumbled from a passing boat and swam into the storm drains along the shores.

Albeit far-fetched, certain groups believe that there are bigger populations of crocs living in the sewers underneath the city.

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