This page contains a list of crocodiles in Africa, with pictures, facts and figures. You can see more incredible African animals here: African Animals List.
The crocodile is one of Africa’s most famous animals. This fearsome aquatic reptile is known for its powerful jaws and explosive ambush attacks.
The crocodile is neither furry nor cute, and is often portrayed as the ‘bad guy’ in nature documentaries, leaping out at unsuspecting zebras or migrating wildebeest.
Although it does have a bit of an image problem, the crocodile plays a vital role in the African ecosystem and several species are currently threatened, with one, the slender-snouted crocodile, being rated ‘critically endangered’ by the IUCN.
Crocodiles are hunted for bushmeat and for their skins. They are also threatened by growing human incursion into their natural habitats.
Let’s find out more about African crocodiles …
List of Crocodiles in Africa
The five species of crocodile found in Africa are:
- Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus)
- West African crocodile (Crocodylus suchus)
- West African slender-snouted crocodile (Mecistops cataphractus)
- Central African slender-snouted crocodile (Mecistops leptorhynchus)
- African Dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis)
Click on an individual species’ name to go directly to that part of the page, or continue reading for info on all species.
For many years it was thought that there were just three species of crocodile in Africa: the slender-snouted crocodile, Nile crocodile, and dwarf crocodile.
Scientific advances now allow scientists to separate species more accurately. Using genetic analysis, several new African crocodile species have been identified.
Current research suggests that there may be as many as seven species of crocodile in Africa!
First it was found that instead of one, there were two types of Nile crocodile, and that they were sufficiently different to one another to be considered separate species.
The smaller species is now known as the West African crocodile Crocodylus suchus. The larger species retains the name Nile crocodile Crocodylus niloticus.
Recent studies have also found that what was previously considered to be a single slender-snouted crocodile species was in fact two species: the West African slender-snouted crocodile Mecistops cataphractus and the Central African slender-snouted crocodile Mecistops leptorhynchus.
Although the research is relatively recent, it is likely that both types of slender-snouted crocodile will soon be recognized by all major authorities, which is why we are including both species on this page.
The dwarf crocodile currently has two subspecies. Many scientists believe that these should actually be considered as being two species. A third potential dwarf crocodile species has also been identified. What was previously just one species may soon be considered to be three species!
Research on the dwarf crocodile is ongoing, and for that reason we have only included a single species, Dwarf crocodile Osteolaemus tetraspis, on this list.
List of African Crocodiles
Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus)
- Biggest crocodile in Africa
- Second-biggest croc in the world (only the saltwater crocodile is bigger)
- Most common crocodile in Africa
- Conservation status: Least Concern
- Wild population: 50,000-70,000 mature individuals
The Nile crocodile is the biggest crocodile found in Africa, and the world’s second-largest crocodile (only the mighty saltwater crocodile is larger).
The species is Africa’s most common crocodile, and has an IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) conservation rating of ‘Least Concern’. It is found in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa (the area south of the Sahara desert).
The Nile crocodile is typically around 3 to 4.5 m (10 to 15 ft.) in length, but exceptionally large specimens reach lengths of over 6m (20 ft.) and weigh over 1,000 kg (2204lb).
The Nile crocodile is an apex predator, with no natural predators of its own. It is an ambush hunter, typically lying in wait in the water with only its eyes and nostrils above the surface. When an animal ventures too close to the water’s edge, the crocodile launches an explosive attack, dragging its victim into the water with its powerful jaws.
- You can find out more about the Nile Crocodile here: Nile Crocodile Facts
West African crocodile / Desert Crocodile (Crocodylus suchus)
- Only recently recognized as being a separate species to the Nile crocodile
- Also known as the ‘desert crocodile’
- Conservation status: Not assessed
- Wild population: Unknown
The West African crocodile is also known as the desert crocodile. It is found further west and in drier habitats than the Nile crocodile.
The species is smaller and less aggressive than the Nile crocodile. Most adults are around 1.5 to 2.5 m (5 to 8 ft.) in length, with the occasional larger specimen reaching an estimated 4 m (13 ft.).
French naturalist Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire named Crocodylus suchus in the early 19th Century, suggesting that it was a separate species to the Nile crocodile. It is only after recent study that this distinction has been recognized. It is now thought that the West African crocodile is more closely-related to crocodiles in the Americas than it is to the Nile crocodile.
West African Slender-snouted crocodile (Mecistops cataphractus)
- Medium sized
- Fish eater
- Conservation status: Critically endangered
- Wild population: 1,000 to estimated 20,000 mature individuals
The West African slender-snouted crocodile is a medium-sized crocodile found in rivers and lakes in West African forests. As its name suggests, it can be distinguished from most other species by its thin mouth parts. It mainly feeds on fish, but its diet also includes birds, mammals, turtles and snakes.
The species grows to around 2.5m (8.2ft.) in length and 325kg (716lb) in weight. Larger specimens up to 4m (13ft.) are sometimes found. Males are larger than females.
The West African slender-snouted crocodile’s IUCN conservation rating is critically endangered. The species is hunted by local people for bushmeat and for its skin. It is also affected by over-fishing and habitat loss, and its future is far from secure. (Currently, the IUCN treats both slender-snouted crocodiles as a single species.)
Central African slender-snouted crocodile (Mecistops leptorhynchus)
The Central African slender-snouted crocodile is closely related to the West African slender-snouted crocodile; the two were until recently considered to be the same species. As its name suggests, the Central African slender-snouted crocodile is found further east than its close cousin.
This species does not currently have its own conservation rating.
African Dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis)
- Also known as the African Dwarf Crocodile, or the West African Dwarf Crocodile.
- Smallest crocodile species in the world
- Conservation rating: Vulnerable
- Wild population: Unknown
The dwarf crocodile is also known as the African Dwarf Crocodile, or the West African Dwarf Crocodile. It is the smallest species of crocodile not only in Africa, but also in the world.
The dwarf crocodile grows to around 1.6m (5ft.) and weighs up to 32kg (70lb), although larger specimens are found. The adult is black on its back and sides, and has yellow and black undersides. Its skin is heavily armored with hard, bony deposits called osteoderms.
The dwarf crocodile is found in several sub-Saharan countries in western Africa. It prefers a forest habitat, and will leave the water to feed. Its diet consists of fish, amphibians and crustaceans.
Recent studies suggest that three populations of dwarf crocodile are sufficiently different to be considered as separate species.
The dwarf crocodile is rated Vulnerable by the IUCN. Threats include being hunted for bushmeat, and habitat loss due to human incursion in its range.
Crocodiles In Africa: Conclusion
We hope that you have enjoyed finding out about the crocodiles found in Africa. Crocodiles may not be cute and cuddly (in fact they’re the opposite!), but they play a vital role in the African ecosystem and it would be a tragedy if a species was allowed to become extinct due to the actions of humans.
- You can discover many more amazing African animals here: African Animals List
- Find out more about reptiles here: Reptiles: The Ultimate Guide
- Discover more of Africa’s amazing reptiles here: African Reptiles List with Pictures & Facts
- You can read all about the biggest species of crocodile in the world here: Saltwater Crocodile facts