West African Dwarf crocodile in exhibit

West African Dwarf Crocodile

Scientific Name
Osteolaemus tetraspis
Geographic Range
Central and western Africa
Invertebrates (also, amphibians, fish, small mammals, snakes, and lizards)
West African dwarf crocodile in exhibit Endangered Status Graph - Vulnerable Endangered Status Graph - 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.

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.
Animal Care staff working with seal

Commitment to Care

Lincoln Park Zoo prioritizes individual well-being over everything else. Guided by scientific research, staff and volunteers work to provide the best welfare outcomes for each individual in the zoo’s care.

Learn More

Support Your Zoo

Two Chilean flamingos in exhibit

Animals Depend On People Too

When you ADOPT an animal, you support world-class animal care by helping to provide specially formulated diets, new habitat elements, and regular veterinary checkups.

Adopt an Animal

Asian small-clawed otter in exhibit

Wish List

The Wish List is full of one-of-a-kind items for the zoo’s animals, including nutritious snacks and enrichment items to keep them active and healthy.

Browse the Wish List

African penguin eating a fish

Take Action With Us

Wildlife face many daunting challenges—some global, like planet-wide climate change, and some that affect individuals, like an animal ingesting plastic—but now is not the time to despair. None of these problems are too big for us to come together and solve.

Take Action

Empty Playlist