False gharial / Tomistoma

Zoo Location: Tropical Forest
 False gharial / Tomistoma

False gharials are found in a variety of habitats throughout their range, including lowland freshwater swamp forests, flooded forests, peat swamps, lakes, and blackwater streams and rivers. They are also found on the fringes of rainforests near slow-moving rivers. Their preferred habitats are peat swamp areas with low elevation and acidic, slow-moving muddy water; they are also found in secondary forest habitat, characterized by more defined river channels and banks, higher pH and elevation, and a lack of peat mounds. This species needs terrestrial areas for basking and nesting.

Wild Diet

False gharials are opportunistic carnivores. They have been reported to grab monkeys from river banks, submerging and drowning their prey or beating it against the bank. Other prey items include wild pigs, mouse deer, dogs, otters, fish, birds, turtles, snakes, monitor lizards, and aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates.


False gharials spend most of their time submerged in shallow wallows or mud-holes, with only their eyes and nostrils visible. Crocodilians are capable of staying underwater for long periods of time. They usually submerge for 10-15 minutes, but can stay submerged for as long as 2 hours to avoid a perceived threat. This is accomplished by slowing down their metabolism and reducing oxygen consumption. Basking behavior is likely used to aid in thermoregulation, though it is not often observed. It has been suggested that these animals may occasionally occupy burrows.


Very little is known about the ecology of this species. Females appear to construct mound-nests of dry leaves and peat onto which an average of 20 to 30 large eggs are laid. Unusually amongst crocodilians, there is no direct evidence that hatchlings receive any parental care and consequently mortality is thought to be high. 


Habitat destruction caused by the construction of dams, channelling and deforestation amongst others has been the main cause of the decline of this species and continues to be its main threat to this day. Intensive hunting in some areas, especially Sumatra, in the mid 20th Century also contributed greatly to the decline in population numbers. Further threats come from fishing practices, with false gharials either becoming caught in nets, poisoned by toxins used to kill fish, or else loosing their food source to local fishermen.

 False gharial / Tomistoma  False gharial / Tomistoma


  • Latin Name: Tomistoma schlegelii
  • Class: Reptiles
  • Order: Crocodylia
  • Family: Crocodylidae
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable
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