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Dwarf Crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis) Fact Sheet: Population & Conservation Status

Population Status

Global population

  • Range-wide information lacking (Eaton 2010a)

Regional populations

  • Approximate numbers unknown
  • Estimates and descriptions of abundance
    • Ivory Coast and Ghana (from Shirley et al. 2009)
      • Anecdotal evidence suggests abundant numbers in the forested south and southwestern regions of each country
    • Gabon and Congo
      • Widespread and common in Gabon (from Pauwels et al. 2006; Thorbjarnarson and Eaton 2003)
        • Present in 6 of 9 national park surveys
          • Likely present in all national parks
        • Present in the Ogooué River and Delta
      • Relatively abundant where habitat is suitable, Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo (from Riley and Huchzermeyer 1999, Thorbjarnarson and Eaton 2003)
        • Density estimate of 0.28/ha (c. 28 individuals/km2 or 72.52 individuals/mi2), Likouala swamps
        • Present in tributaries of the Congo and Ubangi Rivers; ubiquitous in Likouala swamp forest, but hunted
    • Cameroon (from Wild 2000)
      • Widespread
      • Locally abundant in Takamanda Forest Reserve in the Makone River
        • Population likely near carrying capacity; habitat undisturbed

Conservation Status

IUCN Status

  • Vulnerable (1996 assessment) (Crocodile Specialist Group 1996)

CITES Status


  • U.S. Fish & Wildllfe Service
    • Congo dwarf crocodile (O. t. osborni)
      • Endangered (USFWSa)
    • African dwarf crocodile (O. t. tetraspis)
      • Endangered (USFWSb)

Threats to Survival


  • Widespread and intensive (Eaton 2010a, Thorbjarnarson and Eaton 2003)
  • Target crocodiles at night, commonly (from Pauwels et al. 2007)
    • Eye-shine reflection from the eyes gives away an individual’s location and makes an easy target
    • Snare traps, baited hooks, and fishing nets are used to capture individuals on land or near the water’s edge (Thorbjarnarson and Eaton 2003)
    • Manual extraction from burrows using hooks on poles or other means (Thorbjarnarson and Eaton 2003)
  • Reasons for take
    • Subsistence hunting (Eaton 2010a)
      • Predominates in regions which lack infrastructure needed to transport animals for the bushmeat trade (Zoer 2012)
      • Dynamics of commercial trade differ in areas with more advanced transportation infrastructure (e.g., Gabon; Thorbjarnarson and Eaton 2003; Eaton 2004)
    • Form of bushmeat; exported from remote villages to larger cities (Pauwels et al. 2007; Zoer 2012)
      • Most heavily hunted crocodile in West Africa (Zoer 2012)
        • Small size, relatively non-aggressive nature, and ease of capture contribute to its selection and facilitates long-distance transport (Eaton 2010a, Thorbjarnarson and Eaton 2003)
    • Belly skin used to make leather goods in some regions (Abercrombie 1978; Kofron 1992)
      • Hides reported to produce poor quality leather (Vliet et al. 2012; Waitkuwait 1989)
    • Captured to become pets (Pauwels et al. 2007; Shirley et al. 2009)

Habitat loss (Eaton 2010a)

  • Commercial logging, wetland degradation and urbanization

Management Actions

Populations within protected areas

  • Current and detailed information is lacking for the majority of the species range. (Eaton 2010)
  • Gabon (Pauwels et al. 2007)
    • Presence confirmed in 6 of 13 national parks
    • Likely inhabits all national parks
  • Republic of Congo (Crocodile Specialist Group 2007)
    • Lac Tele Community Reserve
  • Côte d'Ivoire (Crocodile Specialist Group 2007)
    • Täi National Park
  • Ghana (Shirley et al. 2009)
    • Owabi Wildlife Sanctuary

Needed actions (from Eaton 2010a unless otherwise noted)

  • Range-wide status survey (Eaton 2010a; Ross 1998)
  • Monitor use in bushmeat trade (Eaton 2010a; Pauwels et al. 2007)
    • Evaluate sustainability of harvest in Gabon and the Congos
  • Expand studies on basic ecology
  • Evaluate potential for managed care breeding programs
    • Assess viability of managed breeding to substitute for bushmeat hunting of wild animals
    • Determine need and efficacy of re-establishing wild populations in protected areas in West Africa
    • Confirm provenance and genetic lineage (including possible hybridization) of animals in managed care prior to consideration for inclusion in breeding programs designed for reintroduction (Franke 2013)

Handbag Made from Dwarf Crocodile

handbag made from dwarf crocodile

Handbag made from Dwarf Crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis) skin.  Hides produce poor leather compared to other crocodilians; the bushmeat trade is a greater threat to this species. 

Image credit: © Emőke Dénes at WikiMedia Commons, Natural History Museum, London. Some rights reserved.

Page Citations

Abercrombie (1978)
Crocodile Specialist Group (1996)
Eaton (2010a)
Franke (2013)
Kofron (1992)
Pauwels et al. (2006)
Pauwels et al. (2007)
Riley and Huchzermeyer (1999)
Ross (1998)
Shirley et al. (2009)
Thorbjarnarson and Eaton (2003)
Vliet et al. (2012)
Wild (2000)
Zoer (2012)

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