CSL
Crocodylus / Mecistops cataphractus (CUVIER, 1825)


NAMES | DISTRIBUTION | HABITAT | STATUS | APPEARANCE | IMAGES | DIET | BREEDING | CONSERVATION

FAMILY:
ALLIGATORIDAE

A. mississippiensis
A. sinensis
C. crocodilus
C. c. apaporiensis
C. c. fuscus
C. latirostris
C. yacare
M. niger
P. palpebrosus
P. trigonatus

FAMILY:
CROCODYLIDAE

C. acutus
C. intermedius
C. johnstoni
C. mindorensis
C. moreletii
C. niloticus
C. novaeguineae
C. palustris
C. porosus
C. rhombifer
C. siamensis
M. cataphractus
O. tetraspis
T. schlegelii

FAMILY:
GAVIALIDAE

G. gangeticus

DICHOTOMOUS KEY
[German]

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STATUS OF INFORMATION:
This information was most-recently updated January 2009 and is considered up-to-date. Please contact me directly regarding updates or corrections.

COMMON NAMES:
African slender-snouted crocodile, Cocodrilo hociquifino africano, Crocodile à museau allongé d Afrique, Crocodile à museau étroit, Faux-gavial d'Afrique, Long-snouted West-African crocodile, African gharial, Panzer crocodile, Long-nosed crocodile, African sharp-nosed crocodile, Faux gavial africain, Loricate crocodile, Subwater crocodile, Khinh, Cabinda

NAME ETYMOLOGY:
> Crocodylus is derived from the Greek krokodeilos which means literally "pebble worm" (kroko = pebble; deilos = worm, or man) referring to the appearance of a crocodile.
> cataphractus means "clad in armour", derived from kataphraktos (Greek)

Recent work on mitochondrial DNA suggests that C. cataphractus is more distantly related to other Crocodylus species than previously thought. This led the authors of the study to suggest replacing Crocodylus cataphractus with Mecistops cataphractus. There has been no official decision made on this name change, and from a policy viewpoint (CITES, IUCN) the existing name stands, but this may change if the name gains widespread usage.

DISTRIBUTION:
[CLICK ON MAP FOR DETAILED RANGE]
Distribution map Central and West Africa: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, United Republic of Togo, Zambia

HABITAT:
A highly aquatic species, found primarily in riverine habitat with dense vegetation cover. Also found in large lakes. Individuals have been found in more brackish water, near the coast, and even on an offshore island (Bioko Island). These reports are unusual, but they do indicate a moderate salinity tolerance.

STATUS:
     CITES: Appendix I
     IUCN Red List: DD (DATA DEFICIENT), possibly EN or VU
     Estimated wild population: Unknown. With so little data on wild populations, any figure is likely to be inaccurate. However, given its distribution, behaviour, and reports in the literature there are possibly up to 50,000 individuals.
Summary: Status and distribution is very poorly known, but thought to be depleted in many areas across its distribution

APPEARANCE:
[click on image for enlargement]
Head drawing This small- to medium-sized crocodilian (usually around 2.5 m, but maximum sizes reported to be up to 4.2 m) takes its common name from its narrow, specialised snout - where it resembles C. intermedius. Protective scales over the back of the neck are present in three or four rows and merge with the scales on the back, unlike the other members of the Crocodylus genus which have two distinct rows of scales. Blotches which are present on the are more typical of the Gavialidae and some members of the Alligatoridae.

Dentition codeDENTITION:
5 (rarely 4) pre-maxillary; 13-14 maxillary; 15-16 mandibular
Total no. of teeth = 64-70

IMAGES:
[click on image for enlargement]

Click Head of juvenile crocodile Click Head of adult crocodile Click Post-occipital and nuchal scales

DIET:
The diet is thought to consist primarily of fish and small aquatic invertebrates. As with all crocodilians, larger animals may feed opportunistically on larger prey if it becomes available.

BREEDING:
This species is generally not found in groups, except during the onset of the breeding season. The female constructs a mound nest consisting mainly of plant matter. Nests are sited on the banks of rivers, and construction generally begins at the onset of the rainy season, although breeding is asynchronous even within members of one population. Has a similar, but generally shorter nesting season than that of the sympatric Osteolaemus tetraspis, which may nest further from the riverine habitat frequented by C. cataphractus. The slender-snouted crocodile lays an average of 16 (minimum 13, maximum 27) very large eggs (relative to body size) about a week after completion of the mound nest. The incubation period is long compared with most other crocodilian species, sometimes lasting over 110 days. The female remains close to the nest, but does not defend it with the same vigour as some other species of crocodilians. Once the eggs begin to hatch, and the juveniles emit their characteristic
chirping, she will break open the nest and assist in the hatching process. Hatchlings then disperse across the flooded forest floor. Although losses from predators do occur (e.g. by soft-shelled turtles), they apparently are minimal, possibly accounting for the small number of relatively large eggs laid, and the long incubation period.

CONSERVATION:
Very little ecological or survey information is available for this species. Those areas that have been surveyed reveal depleted populations, although the species is not yet considered to be threatened. The largest stronghold exists in Gabon, whereas other areas have shown a population decline - particularly in Angola and Chad. Other areas where the population has never had a real stronghold do not appear to have improved, and the species may well be extirpated in The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, Senegal, and Zambia. This decline has come mainly from over-hunting, which intensified once populations of C. niloticus became depleted in these areas. Habitat destruction has been accelerating the process. Populations in Congo and Togo are reported to be extremely rare, yet harvest for skins still takes place.

Poorly-enforced protection exists for the remaining populations, although regulated hunting is allowed in some countries. Sustainable use still only involves cropping of wild populations, and so needs further development. Hunting is permitted in several countries, yet little in the way of firm management plans appear to be in place. However, before significant further action can be taken in this area, studies on ecology, population dynamics and status need to be undertaken - sometimes difficult in areas subject to political instability.

MORE INFORMATION:
For more information on distribution and conservation issues for this species,see the CSG
Action Plan resource.

SIGNIFICANT REFERENCES:

  • Pooley, AC (1982). The status of African crocodiles in 1980. In: Crocodiles. Proceedings of the 5th Working Meeting of the IUCN/SSC Crocodile Specialist Group, Gainesville, Florida. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. pp. 174-228
  • Waitkuwait, WE (1989). Present knowledge on the West African slender-snouted crocodile, Crocodylus cataphractus Cuvier 1824 and the West African dwarf crocodile, Osteolaemus tetraspis Cope 1861. In: Crocodiles. Their Ecology, Management and Conservation. A Special Publication of the IUCN/SSC Crocodile Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. pp. 259-275
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