Central and western Africa


Mostly rivers and large lakes, but sometimes along coastlines.

You never see it coming

Built for stealth, the slender-snouted crocodile is an effective aquatic predator. With coloration that varies from brown to a grayish green, sometimes with black splotches, this crocodile is perfectly hidden in its watery home. Even its underside, with its creamy yellow color, makes it hard for potential prey swimming below the croc to see it coming.

The eyes (and nose, ears, and teeth) have it

Like most crocs, the slender-snouted crocodile has excellent senses of sight, smell, and hearing. Also like other crocodiles, the slender-snouted croc’s nose, eyes, and ears all line up along the top of the animal's head. This way, it can rest almost completely submerged in the water but still be able to see, smell, and hear everything going on above the surface.

The slender-snouted crocodile’s species name “cataphractus” means pebble worm, clad in armor.
A slender-snouted crocodile’s call sounds like a big truck backfiring: BANG!
Other names for the slender-snouted crocodile include sharp-nosed crocodile, long-nosed crocodile, long-snouted crocodile, sub-water crocodile, and African gharial.
Do you know where the expression "to cry crocodile tears" came from? Crocs do "cry," not because they are sad but to get rid of excess salt.
Slender-snouted crocodiles are the only crocodilians know to climb trees.

The San Diego Zoo’s first slender-snouted crocodiles came to us from the North Carolina Zoological Park in 2002. Currently, the Zoo is home to two female slender-snouted crocs, Sandra and Rosey. They each respond to their own color-coded target (yes, they see in color!) on the end of a pole. Their keeper goes into the exhibit, stands on the beach, calls the name of the croc, and smacks the target on the surface of the water (a cue that crocodilians easily respond to). Soon, the prehistoric-looking creature silently glides to the surface, springs from the water, and touches her snout to the target. Her reward is a fish.

Look for these ever-smiling crocodiles next to the pygmy hippos in Lost Forest. It looks like they’re in the same exhibit, but never fear—there’s a glass panel to make sure these feisty neighbors remain friendly.

The population of slender-snouted crocs is dwindling, mostly due to hunting for their meat and skin to make leather products such as shoes, belts, purses, and more. The endangered crocs are also losing more of their habitat as people move into their areas, and the increase of humans fishing for the same food that the crocs eat has caused problems for the crocs as well. Because we still know so little about this animal in the wild, more studies need to be done to learn what can be done to help them.

You can help us bring these crocodiles back from the brink by supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. And you can help all crocodilians by not buying products made from their skin. We think you'll agree the skin looks much better on the crocodile!