Postcard from...Mijas


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The Independent Online

Perhaps only in Andalusia, traditionally Spain's most laid-back region, could keeping alligators as pets ever have been legal – and even there, since 2008, there has been a ban. But after a two-metre, 70kg 'gator was discovered living at a lake near Mijas on Andalusia's Costa del Sol last month, in any case no one in the region needs reminding of the former regulation.

For now, "Costa Croc", as the alligator has been nicknamed by local British tourists flooding the region for the Easter holidays, has only been spotted twice and it is most likely hibernating. Tracks left by the animal, though, indicate it is between 12 and 18-years old and in weak physical condition.

Alligators can go for months without food and it is unlikely to become active until May, when local temperatures rise above 23C. Meanwhile, a lookout tower has been installed near the lake and four large signs reading, "Grave danger! Crocodile on the loose", have been put up to try to keep the public away. Unfortunately, the signs have tended to have the opposite effect, with tourists lining up to have their photos taken next to them.

As for why Costa Croc has been let loose, experts have suggested it's due to a lack of space or regulations insisting the animals be handed in. But the recession may also be to blame.

Since 2008, tens of thousands of pets have been abandoned on Spain's roadsides by their newly impoverished owners. And when it comes to having an animal round the house, keeping a crocodile in your fish pond is probably not the cheapest option. Nor, for that matter, the cuddliest.