West African dwarf crocodile baby hatches at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo

CZS-Brookfield Zoo/Cover Images

The Chicago Zoological Society is happy to announce that a West African dwarf crocodile hatched at Brookfield Zoo in September.

This is believed to be the first crocodilian species on record to have ever hatched at Brookfield Zoo. The month-and-a-half-old scaly reptile made his public debut this week at the zoo's swamp habitat.

In order to provide the best chance of survival, which includes maintaining a certain temperature throughout the egg's development, it was placed in an incubator and monitored by the animal care staff.

The hatchling's parents - 39-year-old sire Krackle and 24-year-old mom Leviathan - arrived at Brookfield Zoo in April 2005 and May 2019, respectively. A female West African dwarf crocodile lays her eggs in a mound of leaves to keep them warm and will guard the nest until the eggs hatch after a three-month incubation.

The young crocodile at Brookfield Zoo currently weighs about three ounces. Adults weigh between 40 and 70 pounds and measure an average of 5.5 to just over 6 feet long; this is 10 feet smaller and two thousand pounds lighter than the largest crocodile species.

This small-scale reptile is patterned with lighter colours when it first hatches and will darken as it matures, making it easy for them to blend in with the shadows at the river's edge. The species is primarily found in the rainforest, swamps, and rivers of West Africa, but if the sun is shining, they may slide onto a log or even climb onto the lower branches of trees to catch some rays.

They eat a diet of mostly small mammals and birds, fish, and insects.

The West African dwarf crocodile is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources' (IUNC) Red List of Threatened Species.