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Dwarf crocodile

The dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis) is the smallest species of crocodiles there is. It is distributed throughout all of West Africa.

Scientific name:

Osteolaemus tetraspis


Osteolaemus tetraspis








Fish, crabs, and amphibians


Around 100 days

Number of puppies

Between 10 and 20


Average of 70 years


A little over 6.5 feet in length


Between 40 and 88 pounds

Characteristics of the dwarf crocodile

This reptile is the smallest species of crocodile, sometimes measuring slightly more than 6.5 feet in length and weighing between 40 and 88 pounds. It is one of the four species of crocodiles that live in Africa, along with the Nile crocodile, the West African crocodile, and the West African slender-snouted crocodile.

Habitat of the dwarf crocodile

The dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis) is distributed throughout all of Western Africa in countries around the Gulf of Guinea, from Senegal to the Republic of Congo. It lives in fresh water rivers in forests and tropical jungles. It is one of the species of crocodile that spends the most time out of the water.

Diet of the dwarf crocodile

This reptile is a carnivorous animal that eats insects as well as vertebrates such as fish, crabs, and amphibians. It basically eats all meat that crosses its path.

Behavior of the dwarf crocodile

Dwarf crocodiles are solitary, territorial animals, so it is not common to see more than one individual at the same time. What’s more, they are a nocturnal species and tend to spend a large part of the day resting in burrows they build close to the water. They are difficult to spot as they are timid and always alert to protect themselves from danger.

Dwarf crocodiles have many predators, mainly because of their small size. Therefore, they have a more defensive attitude, although they will not hesitate to respond if attacked. They are very long-lived reptiles, reaching up to 70 years of age.

Dwarf crocodile reproduction

When the rainy season comes, which is between May and June, females build nests out of mounds of vegetation close to the water. There, female dwarf crocodiles lay between 11 and 20 eggs, which they later cover with leaves and earth. Incubation lasts for between 3 and 4 months.

State of conservation

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature[CL1]  (IUCN), the dwarf crocodile is currently in vulnerable condition. This is mainly due to illegal poaching and habitat degradation. In their country of origin, they are hunted, as the skin of the Osteolaemus tetraspis is valued for manufacturing wallets and other accessories made of this material. In recent decades, there has been a steep decline in the number of individuals.

Degree of threat


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Forests and fresh water rivers in forests.