African Dwarf Crocodile Osteolaemus tetraspis

African Dwarf Crocodile Osteolaemus tetraspis

African Dwarf Crocodile Osteolaemus tetraspis


Extant (resident)

Angola; Benin; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d’Ivoire; Gabon; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Liberia; Nigeria; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Togo

Presence Uncertain


African Dwarf Crocodiles are timid nocturnal animals and solitary hunters. They predate mainly on small animals in rivers or nearby to the riverbank. They are also known as the Broad-Snouted Crocodile or the Bony Crocodile are the smallest extant species of crocodile in the world and are typically around 1.5 metres in length. They face persecution by humans and other animals and spend most of their daylight hours resting in burrows they make along riverbanks. They are vulnerable from #timber #palmoil #soy #meat #deforestation and hunting. Help them survive and be #vegan, #Boycottpalmoil #Boycott4Wildlife

#African Dwarf Crocodiles are timid nocturnal creatures the smallest crocodilian in the world. They face multiple threats incl. #palmoil #meat deforestation. Help them and #Boycottpalmoil #Boycott4Wildlife

African Dwarf Crocodiles are vulnerable in #Congo #Gabon #Ghana and #Liberia due to multiple threats incl. #palmoil #deforestation. Fight for them each time you shop and #Boycottpalmoil #Boycott4Wildlife

Appearance & Behaviour

During they day they rest in burrows which they dig along the riverbank. These burrows have entrance and exit tunnels a few metres long. The crocodiles live among immersed tree roots, hanging into the water.

As they are cold-blooded reptiles, they moderate their body temperature by sun bathing and swimming in river water.

They propel themselves in the water using their vertically flattened tails. When on land, the animals get around by strutting along the ground.


African Dwarf Crocodiles are exposed to alteration and loss of habitat due to forest clearance for the timber industry as well as invasion of agricultural plantations such as palm oil.

African Dwarf Crocodiles face multiple threats which include:

  • Habitat encroachment: Human settlements enroaching on their range.
  • Agriculture: Habitat clearance for timber, palm oil and the grazing of livestock.
  • Human persecution: Farmers actively hunt them as they fear that the crocodiles will kill their livestock.
  • Illegal bushmeat trade: Hunting for bushmeat is also a threat.


The African Dwarf Crocodile’s range stretches from sub-Saharan regions to west-central Africa, from southern Senegal to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, reaching as south as northern Angola.

Their primary habitat rainforest swamps and riverine, riparian regions of forests with dense vegetation and slow flowing currents. In addition, the Dwarf crocodiles are sometimes found in savannah pools.


To hunt, African Dwarf Crocodiles submerge themselves in the river with only their eyes and nostrils visible above the water line. Then they attack by sudden ambush and surprise once prey appears.

They are carnivorous and typically hunting birds, frogs, toad, rats, fish, crustaceans and other small animals. When food sources are scarce, the African Dwarf Crocodile can occasionally consume carrion. They can go for long periods without eating and often rest in their burrows throughout the dry season.

African Dwarf Crocodile Osteolaemus tetraspis

Mating and breeding

Females and males only interact during the breeding season and females build nests at the start of the wet season in May-June. Their nests are made from wet, decaying vegetation near the water’s edge, which incubates the eggs using the heat generated from the decomposition of plant matter.

There are typically 10-20 hatchlings which emerge after 85 to 105 days of incubation time. The mother will guard her nest (during incubation) and her offspring (after hatching) for an indeterminate period of time, as babies can fall prey to birds, fish, mammals or other crocodiles.

When hatching out of eggs, babies sing out with loud calls, which signal to their mother to unearth the eggs. She helps them come out and carefully carries them to the water in her throat pouch.

It was once mistakenly believed that these crocodiles cannibalise their young. Mothers will carefully carry their newly hatched offspring in their throat poaches into the water to safety where she guards them against predators.

Support African Dwarf Crocodiles by going vegan and boycotting palm oil in the supermarket, it’s the #Boycott4Wildlife

Support the conservation of this species

This animal has no protections in place. Read about other forgotten species here. Create art to support this forgotten animal or raise awareness about them by sharing this post and using the #Boycottpalmoil #Boycott4Wildlife hashtags on social media. Also you can boycott palm oil in the supermarket.

Further Information

Crocodile Specialist Group. 1996. Osteolaemus tetraspisThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 1996: e.T15635A4931429. Accessed on 31 October 2022.

Dwarf Crocodile, Wikipedia

Dwarf Crocodile,

African Dwarf Crocodile Osteolaemus tetraspis
Spectacled bear sticking out his tongue by Natalia So for Getty Images

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Published by Palm Oil Detectives

Hi, I’m Palm Oil Detective’s Editor in Chief. Palm Oil Detectives is partly a consumer website about palm oil in products and partly an online community for writers, scientists, conservationists, artists and musicians to showcase their work and express their love for endangered species. I have a strong voice for creatures great and small threatened by deforestation. With our collective power we can shift the greed of the retail and industrial agriculture sectors and through strong campaigning we can stop them cutting down forests. Be bold! Be courageous! Join the #Boycott4Wildlife and stand up for the animals with your supermarket choices

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