Tails From The Zoo

African Dwarf Crocodiles February 1, 2010

Filed under: Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 8:19 pm

African dwarf crocodiles were recently discussed on Zoo Knew (heard Sundays at 7:15 am on CJOB 68 AM). Here’s a recap:


African Dwarf Crocodiles

Osteolaemus tetraspis

At The Zoo:

  • We have 2.0 African dwarf crocodiles at the Assiniboine Park Zoo
  • Dirk and Dagger were both born in 1994, making them 16 years old this year
  • Dirk is the smaller of the two
  • They are near their maximum length (5 feet long (1.5 meters)), and weigh around 50 pounds.

General Information about African Dwarf Crocodiles:


  • They are listed as vulnerable but the IUCN. This is due to habitat destruction and over hunting (they are used as food and killed for their hides).

Distribution and Habitat:

  • Live in swamps and slow-moving streams in tropical rainforest and savannah of west-central Africa.
  • Dwarf crocodiles range across tropical lowland regions of sub-Saharan West Africa and West Central Africa (from Senegal and Central African Republic south to Uganda and Angola).

Natural Diet:

  • Mainly fish, but will also eat frogs, crabs and other small aquatic animals.
  • During the dry season dwarf crocodiles will switch to eating crustaceans.

Zoo Diet:

  • Their zoo diet is mainly fish offered every Sunday at 2:00pm, but they also enjoy mice and rats as a treat.


African dwarf crocodiles are the smallest crocodiles.

  • Maximum male weight: 80kg (176lbs)
  • Maximum female weight: 20kg (44lbs)
  • Length does not exceed 2 meters (6.5 ft) although they rarely reach 1.6m (5ft)

By contrast, the saltwater crocodile is the largest crocodilian and the largest living reptile, reaching weights up to 2,000 pounds and lengths up to 20 feet.

Zoo Notes:

  • There are 23 species of “crocodilians”. These include crocodiles, gavials, alligators and caimans.
  • It is one of the most-heavily armoured of crocodiles, with bony plates throughout the skin, even the eyelid.
  • The snout is short and rather blunt. The 4th tooth on the bottom jaw is exposed on the crocodile, but hidden in alligators.
  • Juveniles have light brown banding on the body and tail and yellowish patterns on the head.
  • Emerging to feed at night in the water and on land, it spends the day hidden in a burrow.
  • African dwarf crocs are generally solitary. Mating pairs come together during the rainy season.
  • An average of 10 eggs (laid in a mound of vegetation) take about 100 days to hatch.
  • The mother not only builds a nest for her offspring, she remains close by after they hatch to defend the young from predators. She will even escort them from the nest to the water’s edge.
  • The young measure 28 cm in length when hatched. Young crocodiles tend to feed on aquatic insects, crustaceans and small fish and begin to feed on more vertebrates as they grow.
  • Life span in zoo may exceed 60 years.



A group of crocodiles is called a float. Crocodiles are ambush predators that often float just below the water’s surface, waiting for fish and other prey to come close enough to catch.

Here’s a fun (pretend) recipe for a Crocodile Float from “Didyano?“, by Timothy D. Thomas. In a large bowl add:

  • 2 large scoops of vanilla ice cream
  • 2 large scoops of mint chocolate ice cream
  • ginger ale
  • chocolate syrup topping
  • 2 crocodiles
  • a cherry to top it off


References: Arkive, IUCN, Zoo Reference Library

Compiled by Scott Gray, Jenna Harrison and Jesse Kindzierski / Revised February 1, 2010


One Response to “African Dwarf Crocodiles”

  1. Shannon G. Says:

    Who knew “dwarf” crocodiles are still so big!! That recipe sounded so….yummy until i saw that crocodiles were listed as one of the main ingredients…..yuck!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s