A legendary alligator that survived World War II and was said to have been Adolf Hitler’s favorite has finally breathed his last in Moscow.
“Our Mississippi alligator Saturn has died of old age,” Moscow Zoo announced on social media on Saturday.
The venerable reptile was believed to be aged around 84, which is an impressive feat, given that such creatures live for only 30 to 50 years in the wild. Unlike his non-captive cousins, the Mississippi ’gator had quite a memorable and eventful life.
Born in the United States in 1936, he was gifted to Berlin Zoo, to which Hitler was a frequent visitor. Some historians claim Saturn was part of his personal collection, while others argue he simply favored the alligator over the zoo’s other animals.
As for those alleged links to the Nazi leader, the zoo has been quick to point out that, even if Saturn had belonged to Hitler, “animals have nothing to do with politics. It’s absurd to blame them for the sins of humans.”
In 1943, Berlin Zoo was hit by an airstrike, with one of the bombs destroying the aquarium. Two dozen crocodiles and alligators were killed, but some managed to survive and fled, with Saturn being among them.
“What it was doing for the next three years remains a mystery,” Moscow Zoo said, but in 1946, the plucky creature was found by UK troops who’d been stationed in the German capital since the Nazi capitulation a year earlier.
The British decided to hand the animal over to the Soviet Union and this is how Saturn arrived in Moscow, where he would go on to spend the next 74 years. This was apparently a happy time for the reptile, as the zoo insisted its staff treated their special guest with the “utmost care and attention.”
“Saturn represents a whole epoch for us – and that’s not an exaggeration. We’re happy that we had a chance to look him in the eye and just be around him. He saw most of us as children. We hope we didn’t disappoint him.”
A special exhibit dedicated to the alligator is to be opened at the State Darwin Museum in Moscow.