CSL
Crocodylus intermedius (GRAVES, 1819)


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:
Orinoco crocodile, Cocodrilo del Orinoco, Crocodile de l'Orénoque, Colombian crocodile, Venezuelan delta crocodile, Caimán del Orinoco, Caimán del Llanos

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.
> intermedius means "intermediate" (Latin), referring to the shape of the snout which falls between the V-shape of most Crocodylus species and the parallel-sided Gavialis snout

DISTRIBUTION:
[CLICK ON MAP FOR DETAILED RANGE]
Distribution map Colombia, Venezuela

HABITAT:
Freshwater riverine (middle and lower parts of the Orinoco river) in Llanos savannah - which becomes waterlogged during the rainy season, creating temporary seasonal rivers. Used to be found in a wider variety of habitats (e.g. tropical evergreen forest, streams in the Andes' foothills). In the dry season, water levels become very low and available habitat in the llanos disappears. C. intermedius retreats into burrows (excavated from river banks in areas where small areas of water remain) during this period, although it may also move overland in search of deeper stretches of water. There have been reports of individuals appearing on islands (e.g. Trinidad), over 150 miles to the north of Venezuela. It is presumed that these individuals were swept out to sea during floods, or were carried on floating mats of vegetation. It does, however, indicate a certain tolerance for higher saline concentrations.

STATUS:
     CITES: Appendix I
     IUCN Red List: CR A1c, C2a (CRITICALLY ENDANGERED)
     Estimated wild population: 250 to 1,500
Summary: Significant population declines and limited distribution mean this species is very seriously threatened in the wild

APPEARANCE:
[click on image for enlargement]
Head drawing The Orinoco crocodile is one of the larger crocodilian species, with historical records of animals reportedly reaching 6 and even 7 metres (unconfirmed). Today, it would be highly unlikely to encounter an animal exceeding 5 m - a more conservative estimate of maximum size for males. The snout is relatively long and narrow, similar to C. cataphractus, and is reported to curve slightly upwards (although this is a common trait in captive-raised animals). Dorsal armour is symmetrical, otherwise it is generally similar in appearance to C. acutus. Colour variation occurs - three phases are described: 'mariposo' with greyish green body and dark black dorsal patches; 'amarillo', the most common colouration with a light, tan body and scattered dark areas; 'negro' which is a more uniformly dark grey. Changes in colour have been observed in captivity over long periods.

Dentition codeDENTITION:
5 pre-maxillary; 14 maxillary; 15 mandibular
Total no. of teeth = 68

IMAGES:
[click on image for enlargement]

Click Upper body of adult crocodile

DIET:
Juveniles eat small fish and invertebrates. Larger animals take many aquatic vertebrates, including fish, together with terrestrial vertebrates and birds approaching or entering the water's edge. There are occasional unsubstantiated reports of humans being taken, but such incidents must be rare, given the status of the species.

BREEDING:
A hole nest is excavated between January and February (in the annual dry season) from sandbars which are exposed due to the lowering of water levels. C. intermedius females lay a large number of eggs - anywhere from 15 to 70 (typically at least 40). Although females remain close to the nest, predation by tegu lizards (the New World equivalent of monitor lizards) and vultures can be a problem. Hatching (about 70 days after laying) coincides with the onset of the wet season, and a rise in water level. Females protect the young pod of juveniles for one to three years.

CONSERVATION:
This species is classed as one of the most highly endangered of all crocodilian species, mainly due to the small size and limited distribution of the population present in the wild, together with continued threats from habitat destruction and hunting. This species used to be found in a much wider variety of habitats (e.g. streams, rainforest - additional survey work may yet reveal unknown populations). However, over-hunting for the valuable skin reduced their numbers drastically. Hunting was made much easier by the high concentration of individuals during the dry, breeding season (where they were often taken from burrows). Crippling over-exploitation between the 1930s and 1960s was primarily responsible for the current critical status, particularly in Colombia. Population recovery has been slow. Survey data for Columbia are still lacking, although some surveys have been conducted recently indicating that a few remnant populations still exist. More survey data are available for Venezuela, indicating that isolated populations still remain where human contact is minimal. Current threats to these increasingly less-isolated populations include illegal killing (eggs and meat for food, teeth for medicinal purposes), collection (e.g. juveniles are often found for sale in local markets) and other interference, as well as habitat destruction. Although protection measures exists, they are generally ineffective. Competition with rapidly increasing Caiman crocodilus populations is also suspected to be hindering recovery. More data on natural history and ecological relationships with the llanos will be invaluable to aid efforts in ensuring the continued survival of this species.

The preservation of suitable habitat is underway in Venezuela. Sustainable use and reintroduction plans are underway and need to be developed further and monitored. Similar action needs to be initiated in Colombia, where closed-cycle farming programs are being considered by the government, together with an experimental release program which is underway. More efficient protection for remaining wild populations is also necessary. The similarity of the skin to that of C. acutus makes identification of illegal skins more difficult.

MORE INFORMATION:
For considerably more information on recent conservation initiatives for this species, including information the number of captive-raised animals back into the wild, see the CSG
Action Plan resource.

SIGNIFICANT REFERENCES:

  • Arteaga, A, Seijas, AE, Chavez, C & Thorbjarnarson, JB (1994). Status and conservation of the Orinoco crocodile: an update. In: Crocodiles. Proceedings of the 12th Working Meeting of the Crocodile Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. pp. 143-150
  • Medem, F (1983). Los Crocodylia de Sur America. Vol. 2 Colciencias, Bogota. pp. 270
  • Seijas, AE (1993). Bibliografia sobre los Crocodylia de Venezuela. Biollania 9: 151-170
  • Thorbjarnarson, JB & Franz, R (1987). Orinoco crocodile. In: Catalog of American Amphibians and Reptiles. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. pp. 406.1-406.2
  • Thorbjarnarson, JB & Hernández, G (1992). Recent investigations of the status and distribution of the Orinoco crocodile, Crocodylus intermedius, in Venezuela. Biological Conservation 62: 179-188
  • Thorbjarnarson, JB & Hernández, G (1993). Reproductive ecology of the Orinoco crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius) in Venezuela. I. Nesting ecology and egg and clutch relationships. J. Herpetology 27(4): 363-370
  • Thorbjarnarson, JB & Hernández, G (1993). Reproductive ecology of the Orinoco crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius) in Venezuela. II. Reproductive and social behavior. J. Herpetology 27(4): 371-379
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