There are many reasons why Mykonos, one of the most famous Greek islands, is known to tourists and travelers from all over the world. The stunning turquoise waters, delicious food, natural beauty, famous parties and picturesque landscapes are only some of these reasons. However, Mykonos was also particularly known because of Petros the pelican, who had the privilege and honor of becoming the official mascot of the island. With a story that seems straight out of a fairy tale, Mykonos Post recounts the events that led to Petros becoming a permanent “resident” of Mykonos and, with the help of Mykonian Dimitris Koutsoukos who lived and grew up with him as a child, brings back memories from the past.
The pelican that was saved by a fisherman off the coast of Mykonos
It all started on October 16, 1955, when a local fisherman, Captain Antonis Haritopoulos, found an injured pelican in the sea near the coast of Mykonos. He immediately picked it up and drove it to the island to take care of it. The great white pelican seemed to have lost its way during its migration. For the inhabitants of Mykonos it was something surreal, as it was the first time they had ever seen such a creature. The pelican was then adopted by the fisherman, Thodoris Kyrantonis, who named him “Petros” after Petros Drakopoulos, a Mykonian hero during World War II. He was given first aid and after his recovery, Petros stayed on the island and became a permanent resident. “Petros came to the island in 1955, the year I was born. Haritopoulos found him near the shore of Merchia beach, brought him to the harbor and then Kyrantonis took over. He named him Petros in memory of the Mykonian Petros Drakopoulos. It was a different Mykonos back then. A Mykonos you don’t see anymore. i lived with Petros the pelican, I never feared him. I grew up with him,” Dimitris Koutsoukos confesses to Mykonos Post.
Petros became a resident of Mykonos
For many years, Petros roamed the alleys and streets of Chora, as well as the harbor, where visitors, from jet setters to small children from all over the world, came to pet him, feed him and pose with him. As the days and months went by, Petros the Pelican made friends on the island and was often seen around seaside taverns and cafes with his friends, waiting for some tasty morsel to be thrown to him by the locals. And, indeed, they would spoil Petros with delicious fresh fish from their morning catch. “In the evenings, Petros stayed in the house with Thodoris. Everyone loved him, especially the fishermen, because he was wandering around Gialos all the time. We fed him, took care of him. He became one of us. He was like a human being, honestly. He would wander the alleys, go to the restaurants and the houses. He was not afraid of tourists, he was used to presence of humans,” says Dimitris Koutsoukos with emotion. There are many photos that have captured the great white pelican sitting next to its human companions while they are enjoying their ouzo or Greek coffee. For everyone in Mykonos, Petros was a fellow citizen and was loved as one.
The “successors” of the original Petros
Hearing Petros’ story, Jackie Kennedy, who visited the island in 1963, donated a female pelican to the people of Mykonos, which was named Eirini. Then, the zoo of Hamburg gave another young male pelican to the island, who inherited the name Petros. Then, other pelicans followed and lived on the island. Tourists, of course, called them all Petros. “Jackie Kennedy brought Eirini, a female pelican, to the island. Eirini was a much wilder animal, few could get close to her. Then, MYCOBAR mines brought two more pelicans, Alfonso and Omega. Others followed afterwards. As you can understand, there has always been at least one pelican on the island. In fact, in 1972 -if I remember correctly- the wedding of Petros and Eirini took place at the island’s airport. What an incredible sight! Of course, I didn’t grow up with all these pelicans. I knew the original Petros. It was him I grew up and lived with,” Dimitris Koutsoukos confesses to Mykonos Post.
The inglorious end of Petros the pelican
On December 2, 1985, after about 30 years on the island, Petros the pelican was killed by a truck. He had tucked himself under its wheels and was taking a nap. The driver, who hadn’t seen him, started the engine and hit him badly. Petros was flown, seriously injured, to Thessaloniki, where he died. The people of Mykonos were deeply saddened by his loss. He would surely be missed by everyone. No one could have replaced him. Now, in Mykonos, there is a male pelican who preserves the legend of Petros. “The pelican we have now is large, he sleeps in a cage in Meletopoulos’ garden and when he is let out, he flies to the Mills where he sits alone, because he doesn’t like people much. He is look-alike of the original Petros. But he is not Petros,” Dimitris Koutsoukos says, and adds that “A few days ago, I publicly expressed an idea of mine: To build a statue of the original Petros. Because, even though there were other pelicans that lived on the island, he was the original, he was the mascot. I suggested that we build a memorial in his honor, in the place where he grew up and lived, in the panga (open-air market) next to the fishermen. But no one responded to that idea,” he says. The bottom line is that Petros lived a long and happy life and received a lot of love from people throughout the entire 30 years of his life. He was beloved by thousands of people, lived his own adventure on the island and, apart from fresh fish, he enjoyed to the fullest every aspect of his stay in Mykonos. It was evident since then that the hospitality and friendly nature of the people of Mykonos was and continues to be in their blood.