It is thought to have been around for about fifty five million years which means it lived at around the same time as the dinosaurs.
The crocodile is a reptile, but unlike many other reptiles in can survive in water for long periods of time. Crocodile populations are widespread throughout much of Africa, typically inhabiting wetland areas such as rivers, lakes, swamps and marshes. Reptiles are cold blooded so prefer a hot climate.
The most common species of crocodile found in Africa is the Nile crocodile, although you will also find the Slender-Snouted and African Dwarf crocodiles throughout west and central Africa. Nile crocodiles can grow to more than five metres long, whilst the Slender-Snouted is slightly smaller at up to four metres. The African Dwarf crocodile is the smallest of the three species, as suggest by its name, typically only growing to a length of one and a half metres. It is, in fact, the smallest existing species of crocodile in the world.
Crocodiles are predatory creatures and typically feed on fish, reptiles, mammals and birds. Adult crocodiles kill their prey by approaching unseen under the water, before grabbing it and dragging under water so that it drowns. A crocodile’s jaw is incredibly strong and can exert enough pressure on its prey to ensure that escaping is practically impossible. A crocodile has approximately twenty four teeth but these are built to grasp its prey and are not used for chewing as crocodiles swallow their food whole. The tail of a crocodile is also extremely powerful, so this is also often used in order to weaken prey by spinning around and around in the water until the prey drowns.
A crocodile's streamlined body means it is incredibly agile in the water and able to swim at speeds of up to twenty miles per hour. They are also known to be fairly fast on land, able to run at speeds of up to 11 miles per hour in short bursts.
Crocodile attacks on humans are not unheard of, especially in areas where crocodiles and humans come into close contact usually along the banks of various rivers where there are villages and settlements. It is estimated that there are probably around several hundred deaths caused by crocodile attacks on humans every year across the globe as most will be unreported in poor, remote rural areas. In more prosperous areas there tends to be a well organised task force to deal with any crocodile intruders who are getting too close to populated areas although the odd croc does end up in the swimming pool every now and again!
Crocodiles are fairly solitary animals and tend to live alone or in small groups. Reptiles lay eggs and a female crocodile will lay on average around 40 eggs per year Crocodiles often live in the same territory for their whole lives. Species of crocodile in Australia have been found to have 'homing' instincts, as a study showed that they had returned to their original territory after just three weeks of relocation. It is thought by many scientists that these same homing instincts can be found in African species of crocodile too. This is significant as it indicates that human interference such as deforestation and land development can be fatal to these groups