Dwarf crocodile

Latin Name
Osteolaemus tetraspis




Uniformly dark in color with brown eyes. Body is heavily armored from head to tail with bony, plated scales. They can reach a length of 5.5 feet and weigh 70 pounds.



West Africa and west central Africa (Guinea, Ghana, Nigeria, Gabon, Cameroons, Liberia and Angola)


The dwarf crocodile is listed as vulnerable. It is still exploited for its hide, eggs, meat and as a pet.


Tropical forest zones, prefering slow-moving water while avoiding major waterways.


Aquatic and nocturnal, feeding on crabs, frogs, fish and, occasionally, small mammals that wander into the water or are captured by the riverbed.

Life History

Dwarf crocodiles lay about 20 eggs at a time in nest mounds made of vegetation. Incubation is 87–126 days, depending on atmospheric temperature. Timid by nature, dwarf crocodiles are slow moving and do not like to bask as other crocodiles do.

Special Adaptations
  • Eyes placed high on the head enable the crocodile to see above the water line while keeping its body submerged.
  • Special transparent membranes protect the animal's eyes during struggles with prey.

Bonus Content

Dwarf crocodiles have claws in front to help grab prey in the water, with the back feet webbed for a stronger swimming stroke.

Wings, Paws and Claws
A crocodile's claws, bat’s wing and monkey’s nimble fingers handle different tasks…but they’re all adapted from the same basic building blocks.

Impressive incisors, millstone molars—as this guide shows us, what an animal eats is often dependent on its teeth.

The Whole Tooth
Impressive incisors, millstone molars—as this guide shows us, what an animal eats is often dependent on its teeth.

Fond Memories
Take a look back to highlight some of the many animals who have created great memories for zoo visitors and staff alike. 

Creepy Critters—Dwarf Crocodiles
The zoo’s juvenile dwarf crocodiles hunt like their larger cousins—but on a scale that substitutes crickets for wildebeest as prey. Learn more with our Creepy Critters close-up!


ARKive Media

ARKive image - Dwarf crocodile eggARKive image - Dwarf crocodile egg hatchingARKive image - Dwarf crocodile hatchling by egg

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