To commemorate the Rome zoo’s 100th anniversary, staff members attended the pope’s general indoor audience in Vatican City and brought along a rare baby Cuban crocodile to represent the zoological park’s animals.
Benedict March 26-28 will make the second-ever papal visit to Cuba where he is due to conduct two open-air masses.
The crocodile, about 20 centimeters long, was recently turned over to the police after it was discovered in Rome. The zoo believes it may have been discarded after being smuggled into Italy by a vacationer returning from a holiday visit to Cuba. Around the same time as the papal visit, the reptile is due to be returned to home where it will be released into the wild.
The Cuban crocodile, which is classified as an endangered species, has seen its numbers fall by 80 percent in recent years, and it currently survives only in a small area of the island, the Vatican said in a statement.