Saturn, an alligator who was the subject of an urban legend that claimed he was once Adolf Hitler's pet, has died at (or around) the age of 84. He was living at the Moscow Zoo at the time of said death, which happened on Friday.
Saturn, whose obituary is being published in many national outlets (which is better than most of us will ever do...living to 84 ain't bad either), was born in Mississippi in 1936, though he was later sent to the Berlin Zoological Garden.
Saturn is said to have escaped from that zoo in 1943 after it was bombed. Between 1943 and 1946, his whereabouts were unknown, which would seem to be a little odd, even in wartime. What he was doing in the ruins of Berlin for three years sounds fascinating, but it dies with him, we guess.
According to reports, only 96 of the 16,000 animals at the zoo survived after it was bombed. The aquarium Saturn was housed in was destroyed in November 1943, with "20 to 30 alligators and crocodiles" dying as a result. Somehow he and a few other reptiles survived, and reportedly scoured the city in search of food.
In 1946, Saturn was found by British soldiers who then gifted him to the Soviet Union, according to the Moscow Zoo.
His time living in Germany during the war is what birthed the rumor that he was Hitler's pet. Based on the fact that he was the only alligator at the Moscow Zoo when he was brought there in the summer of 1946, he ended up being a popular attraction. Saturn was originally named "Hitler" by visitors aware of his origins, but later his name was changed to what it is now.
In addition to surviving the bombing, he has also avoided several other brushes with death over the years since. Here's an excerpt from his Wikipedia entry that makes him sound lucky/un-killable (we can probably cross that off now), and also may make you wonder what the fuck is wrong with zoo patrons in Russia. They must have some sort of discount day in that country too:
In his time at the Moscow Zoo, Saturn had several narrow escapes from death. In the 1980s, a slab of concrete fell from the aquarium's ceiling into the alligator enclosure, but luckily for Saturn, he had made his way to a protective niche beforehand. In 1990, a new aquarium building was built, but Saturn resisted the move, refusing to eat for four months and came close to perishing. Once, a drunk visitor threw a boulder on his head to wake him up, after which zoo veterinarians fought to keep him alive for months. Another time, a group of tourists threw glass bottles at Saturn, injuring him. After these incidents, the enclosure was made more secure with the addition of a thick glass wall. In the 2010s, Saturn once again stopped eating, this time for nearly a year. Zoo staff took blood samples for analysis, and injected him with vitamins to try to keep him alive. He eventually resumed eating.
Also, in an interesting (sad?) note, Saturn was said to have "cried out" in 1993 after feeling vibrations from Russian tanks following the collapse of the Soviet Union. His keepers believed that he had associated that particular noise with the Battle of Berlin, which would've taken place for several weeks in 1945, a.k.a. one of the years when his whereabouts in that city were unaccounted for.
Anyway, the rumor he belonged to Hitler is almost certainly bogus, as the zoo where he lived for nearly three-quarters of a century sought to clarify.
“Almost immediately, the myth was born that he was allegedly in the collection of Hitler and not in the Berlin Zoo,” said the zoo in a statement. Note that he had been on public display in Berlin prior to that zoo being destroyed. We say "almost certainly" in the paragraph preceding this one because some sources said his display was part of a personal menagerie for Hitler.
Still, consider it very unlikely.
The statement went on to say that, if the rumors somehow were true, “animals are not involved in war and politics and it is absurd to blame them for human sins.” Hopefully that will placate the crazies.
As for his personality, TMZ notes that he was apparently irritable, not unlike his similarly aged human counterparts.
"He was fussy about food and loved being massaged with a brush. If he didn’t like something, he would gnaw on the concrete decorations," the zoo said.
Very relatable. RIP.