Three baby crocodiles have made their public debut at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park. But visitors need to be sharp-eyed, as the youngsters are less than one foot long. The African dwarf crocodiles are around 6 months old. The siblings – they are too young to have been sexed - are each about 11 inches or 28 centimetres long and weigh no more than 170 grams. Mike Bungard, Curator of Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates, said: “They may be small but they still come with a nasty bite. They have a mouthful of pointy, pin-sharp teeth, as young crocs tend to eat a lot of insects. “This species is found in the Omo Forest area of Nigeria, where the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust has an environmental education project. It’s good to link the collection to our conservation projects.” The baby crocs, which came from Bristol Zoo, are in the Zoo’s Reptile Tropics exhibit. The African dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis) historically ranged throughout the lowland regions of West and western Central Africa. The IUCN Red List categorises them as Vulnerable, which means that there is a high risk of extinction in the near-term. The principal threats are widespread and intensive subsistence hunting, the commercial bush-meat trade and habitat loss. Very little is known about the ecology and natural history of dwarf crocodiles. They rarely exceed two metres in length. In the wild they eat mainly invertebrates such as gastropods and crabs as well as frogs and fish.
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