Common Name: African Dwarf Crocodile

Scientific Name: Osteolaemus tetraspis


Kingdom:  Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class:  Sauropsida

Order:  Crocodilia

Family:  Crocodylidae

Genus:  Osteolaemus  

Species:  O. tetraspis



The fascinating species of the African Dwarf Crocodile, scientifically known as the Osteolaemus tetraspis, is one of two subspecies and the only species of the genus Osteolaemus.  At its longest length, it was recorded at 6.3 feet. To identify the animal, you’ll notice it has a dark back and dark sides, a lighter brown body and tail and a yellowish underbelly with numerous black patched. The word Osteolaemus   means “bony throat” and Tetraspis means “four shields.” The African Dwarf Crocodile has a short snout and is heavily armored with dorsal scales on its back, neck, and tail.


At an estimated population of 25,000-100,000, the African Dwarf Crocodile shows some degree of decline. This decline is caused by their habitat being destroyed or by being hunted. Although they are hunted, their skin is very poor quality. This fact is good for their species or they could very well have been extinct by now. During the breeding season which takes place during the wet season (May-June), the female lays a small number of eggs, usually only around 10, but rarely up to 20. The female Crocodile will have to wait 85-105 days for the eggs to hatch. When the babies are born, they are about 28 cm long. She will guard the nest for an unknown amount of time.


The African Dwarf Crocodile is primarily found in swamps and slow-moving waters in rain forests. They range across tropical lowland regions in Africa, West and West Central.  During the dry season, they spend most of the day in burrows that they build. These burrows are sometimes partially submerged with the entrance under the water surface. Some burrows are located under tree roots. These reptiles are slow, timid and nocturnal so they mostly come out at night.

            African dwarf Crocodiles’ diet consists of fish, amphibians and crustaceans. During the dry season, the fish come by the few and they would eat crustaceans until the wet season, when more fish are there. While eating crustaceans during the dry season, their dietary intake is generally reduced. So it seems that they enjoy the fish rather than the crustaceans. During my studies, I have only been able to find that the Dwarf Crocodile seems to have one main predator, humans. These reptiles get hunted for their meat and, although poor quality, their skin. Another reason these reptiles may be dying off is because of the rain forests being destroyed. So there habitats are becoming rare.

            In conclusion, I learned that there are two different subspecies of this cool reptile. This creature, classified under the kingdom, animalia: Phylum, chordata: Class, sauropsida: Order, crocodilia: Family, crocodylidea: Genus, osteolaemus: Species, tetraspis, is one of the smallest and rarest of the crocodiles. I found it interesting that these crocodiles, being directly related to regular sized crocodile, they were more shy, less aggressive and nocturnal. It’s amazing that they are not endangered. In my opinion it seems that a lot of small species ends up somewhat endangered eventually. Fortunately, these wonderful little crocodiles are in no real danger of becoming extinct.


Author: Charles D

Published: 02/2009



West African Dwarf Crocodile-


Clifford H. Pope. “The Reptile World” Encyclopedia Americana

1988, Vol. 8, pp231-232


Photo Credit:

                        Author: Fritz Geller-Grimm