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Nile Crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus & C. suchus) Fact Sheet: Summary

Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) Fact Sheet

Nile crocodile

Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus)

Image credit: © David Schenfeld from Flickr. Some rights reserved.


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Reptilia

Order: Crocolydia

Family: Crocodylidae

Genus: Crocodylus

Species: Crocodylus niloticus - Nile Crocodile (eastern Africa, Nile valley, southern Africa)

Species: Crocodylus suchus - Nile Crocodile (west and central Africa)

Body Weight: 70-100 kg

Body Length: 2.0-3.3 m (6.6-11 ft); maximum length snout to tip of tail:
5 m (16.4 ft); largest crocodile in Africa.

Sexual Dimorphism: Males larger than females.

Other features: Salt glands on tongue secrete salt and help animal adapt to salt water environments.

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

Range: Primarily found in Africa, though native to Madagascar. In Africa, widespread distribution south of the Sahara; absent from the southern tip of Africa.

Habitat: Freshwater lakes, rivers and brackish coastal swamps.

IUCN Status:
Crocodylus niloticus: Least Concern (2017 assessment)
Crocodylus suchus: Newly recognized species; assessment not yet available

CITES: Appendix I or Appendix II, depending on populaion. Ranching allowed in some African countries.

Population in Wild: Estimated 250,000 to 500,000 individuals, but figures not reliable.

Activity Cycle: Primarily nocturnal. In daylight, basks in the sun and cools off in the water when necessary.

Locomotion: Avoid travel on land if possible. propulsion in water by tail and body undulations; bottom walk in shallow water. Can "high walk" with legs erect under body, dragging the tail.

Diet: Varies with age. Hatchlings eat insects; adults can eat large prey such as impala, bushbucks, buffalo, young hippos, and even lions.

Interspecies Interactions: Hippos and Nile Crocodiles occupy the same habitats; hippos tend to be more dominant. Common Sandpipers, and several plover species pick ectoparasites from crocodiles.

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

Courtship: Elaborate rituals in water with males displaying to females; one to five months' interval between mating and nesting.

Nesting: Colonial nesting; during dry season, female digs hole in sand near the water. Mother buries and guards eggs.

Clutch Size: 55-60 eggs

Inter-clutch Interval: 1-2 clutches per year

Incubation: 80-90 days

Growth: Young grow c. 30 cm/yr (1 ft/yr); growth slows to 2.5 cm/yr (1 in/yr) for old crocodiles

Sexual Maturity: 12-19 yrs. in wild

Typical Life Expectancy: thought to be long-lived, though typical life expectancy not reported

Feature Facts

  • Narrow snout to minimize drag and disturbance in the water
  • Regulate body temperature by being in/out of the water and by resting with mouth open
  • Sensory receptors help crocodiles detect water movement and pressure
  • Very social; larger individuals more dominant
  • Avoid hippos
  • Possess bird- and mammal-like features, such as a similar brain structure (hindbrain) and a 4-chambered heart
  • Males perform Splash Display" when courting females
  • Mothers build nest and guard hatchlings
  • Conflict between crocodiles and humans in Africa for water resources and following human fatalities
  • Ancient Egyptians revered Nile Crocodiles; god Sobek, mummies found in tombs
  • Nile Crocodiles and many other crocodiles farmed (primarily for skins)

About This Fact Sheet

© 2015-2019 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Taxonomy, population estimates, IUCN/CITES statuses updated Apr 2019.

How to cite: Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) Fact Sheet. c2014-2019. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. nile_crocodile.
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Jan 15)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

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