The Cretan fauna

People have lived on Crete for thousands of years. But despite this long history of human activity Crete's nature and the environment continues to be very varied. The rich fauna and flora of Crete is a result of the island's relative isolation from the surrounding land masses and the island's many different ecosystems.
For example the only endemic mammals in Greece (ie, species found only in Greece) live on Crete.

Crete lies at the birds' major migration route from Africa to Europe and therefore especially many raptors live on the island. But also many other species of birds live on Crete - either permanently or as migratory birds.

Use the links to the right to learn more about Cretes wildlife.

In the waters around Crete you can find most of Mediterranean marine life: sea bass, octopus, moray eels, bream, rays, scorpion fish, barracudas and seahorses, to name a few. Sharks are also found out there, but there are no reports of shark attacks on Crete's shores. Also many of the marine mammals can be seen around Crete. In the Libyan Sea south of Crete you can meet flocks of gray whales and striped dolphins and Crete is home to the last of the highly endangered Mediterranean Monk Seal. Another threatened species is the loggerhead turtle, which has one of its biggest nesting areas in Crete.

Read aboutAlso read: Animal welfare on Crete

Bird Life on Crete is especially well known for a very large number of birds of prey. There among the rare bearded vulture and the Cretan Eagle, found only here. But thanks to the many different geographical and climatic areas on the island, Crete also offers a variety of other bird species. From alpine species that can live in high mountain areas where snow covers the ground for up to 8 months a year to a variety of seabirds, shorebirds, small songbirds and others. Larks, swallows, kingfishers, Hoopoe, many finches and sparrow species are common in Crete. You may also be lucky to meet exotic birds such as parakeets, pelicans and flamingos.

The largest land mammal on Crete is the Cretan Ibex, Agrimi or Kri-Kri. But there is also a special Cretan subspecies of badger, a very rare Cretan wildcat, and there are endemic species of martens, shrews and spiny mice.

Among the amphibians and reptiles that live in Crete, you can also find species not found elsewhere in the world. Among these the Cretan Waterfrog and the Cretan Wall Lizard. There are four snake species in Crete. Only one of them is poisonous. It is the Cat Snake, but its poison is too weak to be dangerous for ordinary healthy people.

The same goes for the scorpions that live in Crete. There are many species, widespread on the island, but none that are dangerous. Insect Life on the island is also rich and again with several endemic species. For example Cretan Festoon, a butterfly that lives in the mountains.

From excavations Crete's prehistoric wildlife is known. Now extinct dwarf elephants and hippoes lived on the island thousands of years ago.