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Animal Data > West African Dwarf Crocodile

(Osteolaemus tetraspis tetraspis)

Status Distribution Sexually Mature
Endangered West Africa and west central Africa 5 - 6 years
Number of Young Gestation Life Span
20 126 days 75 years

The West African dwarf crocodile is the smallest of the 3 species of crocodile in Africa. They are found around swamps and slow moving streams and are most active at night. They are well adapted for moving in water, using their bodies and tails for moving and their limbs for steering or braking. Eyes, ears and nostrils are all positioned at the top of the head to enable the crocodile to remain almost totally submerged whilst keeping its senses clear of the water.

The West African dwarf crocodile eats fish, birds, crustaceans and small land vertebrates. Its teeth are used for seizing and holding prey rather than for chewing. The teeth are replaced continuously as new ones grow up.

Dwarf crocodiles dig burrows just above the waterline. These typically consist of 2 passageways – one for entering and one for exiting. The passageways can extend for several feet and end in a den or chamber. When the female is ready to lay eggs she builds a nest made of a mound of vegetation. As this vegetation rots it produces heat, keeping the eggs warm. The temperature at which the eggs incubate decides the sex of the offspring – high and low temperatures produce mostly females, medium temperatures produce males.

The dwarf crocodile is too small to have suffered great losses due to trade in skins, but it does form part of the bush meat trade. Trade in bush meat is growing and threatening many species with extinction. The bush meat trade and the destruction of the crocodile’s rainforest habitat are the biggest threats to the survival of the West African dwarf crocodile.

Main Features

Adults are uniformly dark brown in colour. Juveniles are a lighter brown. Can reach a length of about 5 feet and weigh about 70 pounds. Has a short, blunt and broad snout.


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