Wildlife Species of the Week

African Dwarf Crocodile (Osteolamis tetrapis )

The dwarf crocodile is one of the smallest crocodile species in the world, with two sub-species; The West African Dwarf and the Congo Dwarf. They are distributed mainly across West and Central Africa. This species is found mainly in swamps and swamp forests, with a preference for standing or slow-moving bodies of water. Occasionally, dwarf crocodiles may occur in pools in savannah habitats, where they are reported to spend the dry season in burrows or hidden beneath tree root structures.

African dwarf crocodiles can grow up to 4.9 feet. At breeding times, they can lay up to ten eggs at once. They are excellent diggers, and females especially dig to hide their eggs and watch them until they hatch. They bask in the sun during the day to increase their body temperature, provide energy, and live up to 70 years.

Dwarf crocodiles are the apex predator in some habitats like swamps, and they help keep some other species in check. They are also hunted for food in many African communities, providing protein to them.

The West African dwarf crocodile is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is listed on CITES Appendix I. They are at threat from habitat change and are often killed for food. Accurate population data is minimal. They may be locally abundant in some countries such as Cameroon but have suffered population depletion in others such as the Gambia.