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West African Dwarf Crocodile

Regenstein African Journey

Did You Know?

  • West African dwarf crocodiles are one of the world’s smallest crocodilians and rarely grow longer than 6.5 feet.
  • Because they are reclusive, little is known about their behavior in the wild, but they are terrestrial for a crocodile species as well as nocturnal.
  • They are well adapted for life in the water; they have clear, protective third eyelids that allow them to see underwater, along with sealable ear holes and closeable nostrils.

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Overview

Scientific Name: Osteolaemus tetraspis

Class: Reptiles

Diet: Invertebrates (also, amphibians, fish, small mammals, snakes, and lizards)

Range: Central and western Africa

Endangered Status: Vulnerable

More Information

West African dwarf crocodiles are generally black or grayish-black in color, with yellow splotches on their belly and under their tails. Adults have heavily armored scales infused with bony prominences called osteoderms, which protect them from predators. These reptiles are aggressive and fast. They also change their diet seasonally. They prefer swamps and rainforests with slow-moving water.

Usually, they are found alone or in pairs, traveling long distances inland to find mates. They breed at the beginning of the wet season, when water levels are higher. When courting, they lie side by side, embracing and rubbing one another. After they part, females build nests in warm, rotting vegetation. They will lay up to 17 eggs, which hatch around three months later. Young crocodiles reach maturity at about 5 or 6 years. Their populations face threats that include hunting, habitat destruction, and human encroachment.

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