Dwarf Crocodile

Dwarf_Crocodile_-_Ankasa_-_Ghana_14_S4E1987_(16203819095)

Profile

The dwarf crocodile is a relatively small crocodilian living in Africa. These crocodiles are almost completely black, but their underside is yellow. The juveniles look a lot different than the adults do. Besides their large eyes, which almost all young crocodilians have, they also have different colored skin. Instead of being completely black, they have stripes and speckles of dull yellow, tan, or brown. They also have black speckles on a lighter background on their lower jaw. These turn in to stripes as the crocs mature and eventually into completely black. The individual shown above is not yet fully mature as it has these stripes. This animal is also sometimes called the broad-nosed crocodile because of its wide snout. There are two subspecies of dwarf crocodiles, the West African dwarf crocodile and the lesser known Congo dwarf crocodile. The Congo dwarf crocodile is usually a lighter color and has a flatter, narrower snout. This animal may eventually be proven to be a different species.

Size

As made obvious by their name, dwarf crocodiles are small…at least for crocodiles. Most of the time they do not get much bigger than about five feet (1.5 m) long, although they occasionally reach up to six feet (1.8 m), about the height of the average adult man. Usually the females are much smaller, closer to 3-4 feet (0.9-1.2 m). Male dwarf crocodiles can weigh up to about 175 pounds (80 kg) while the females usually weigh between 40 and 70 pounds (18-32 kg). True to their name, theses crocodiles are the smallest of three crocodile species in Africa.

Diet

In the wild, dwarf crocodiles are diverse predators eating many different animals that live in and around the water. Fish are their main food, but they will also eat frogs, birds, crustaceans, and small mammals. The diet of this animal is thought to change seasonally. During the wet season there is an abundance of fish in the waterways. They therefore eat a lot of fish. In the dry season, there are not as many fish and not as much water, so they eat more terrestrial animals.

Habitat and range

Dwarf crocodiles live in west central Africa. The map below shows the area they inhabit. For the two subspecies, the West African dwarf crocodile lives, obviously, more in the western part of the range. The Congo dwarf crocodile lives only in Congo, the large country right in the middle of Africa or the south east of the range.

Osteolaemus_tetraspis_Distribution

These crocodiles, like most crocodilians, love water. They typically live in or near slow-moving bodies of water such as swamps and pools in the savanna or forest. During the very hot dry season dwarf crocodiles take refuge from the scorching sun either in long burrows or under large systems of tree roots.

Status and threats

Dwarf crocodiles are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Redlist. Most of the natural predators of these animals only prey on the young or the eggs. These predators include birds, mongooses, and other crocodiles. Since they are the smallest crocodilians in Africa, some of the other crocodiles will even prey on the adults. Habitat destruction, sometimes caused by pollution of water, is a main threat to these crocodiles.. They are also sometimes hunted for their meat or skin or even out of fear. In Congo alone, tens of thousands of dwarf crocodiles are sold in local markets for food annually. In some countries, such as Gambia and Liberia, these crocodiles are so severely threatened that they may soon be extinct there. There are an estimated 25,000 to 100,000 dwarf crocodiles in the wild. When threatened on land, this species of crocodile will sometimes use a galloping/bounding run to get back to the safety of the water.

Reproduction and young

Dwarf crocodiles breeding season begins in the early wet season, sometime in late May or early June. Males will mate with multiple females that inhabit his territory. After mating, each female makes a large nest made of rotting vegetation. The fact that it is rotting helps the eggs to keep warm. Normally the females lay about ten eggs each, but they can lay up to 20. They then cover up the top of the nest with soil in order to retain the heat the rotting plants produce. The eggs incubate over the next 100 days. When the are ready to hatch, the young crocodiles emit high-pitched noises to signal their mother. She comes, digs out the nest, and gently cracks the eggs in her mouth. She then carries them in her mouth down to where there is water. At this time the small crocodiles are about one foot (30 cm) long. The young are soon independent, but they stay with their mother for a few weeks just for protection. Dwarf crocodiles are very long lived, and they have been known to live up to 75 years! The juveniles are ready to mate for the first time by the time they are 5 years old.

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mystery animal

Sources:

Photo credits:

  • Dwarf Crocodile – Francesco Veronesi
  • Dwarf Crocodile range – Achim Raschka
  • Mystery animal – Charlesjsharp
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