Endangered Cuban croc meets the pope
Vatican City - A rare Cuban crocodile met a bemused Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican on Wednesday, as Rome's Bio Park zoo celebrated its centenary with the eco-friendly pontiff.
A staff member from the zoo - which has 1 200 animals and is visited by 700 000 people a year - presented the 60cm long crocodylus rhombifer crocodile to the pope, who smiled bravely.
The pontiff places particular importance on supporting and defending nature.
"Truly the world is dark wherever men and women no longer acknowledge their bond with the Creator and thereby endanger their relation to other creatures and to creation itself," he said in a speech on Monday.
The Cuban crocodile is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) endangered species list: its population has dropped by 80 percent and it only survives on a small area of the island.
The Bio Park's croc will make its return to Cuba around the same time that the pope makes a scheduled trip to the island in March.
The 84-year-old pontiff, who seemed in good spirits, was also entertained at the end of the weekly general audience with a performance by clowns, acrobats and jugglers from several different circuses.