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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrata > Class Reptilia
Estuarine crocodile
Crocodylus porosus
Family Crocodylidae
updated Apr 2018

if you learn only 3 things about them ...
Only healthy mangroves can support these magnificent top predators!
When a crocodile smiles (mouth wide open) it's just cooling down, not about to bite.
Crocodiles don't eat people.

Where seen? This awesome reptile is often seen at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. According to Davison, it has been recorded in our estuaries and reservoirs including the Singapore River, Kallang River, Sungei Seletar and Kranji Reservoir, and Pulau Tekong. Also called the Saltwater crocodile, it is the most widely distributed of the crocodiles and found in tropical Asia and the Pacific. It lives in b rackish and freshwater habitats.

Features: Up to 8m long. A large triangular head with broad and long snout and bulbous eyes at the top of the head. There is a pair of ridges along the centre of the snout. It uses its long muscular tail to propel itself in the water. Younger crocodiles have oval scales that are pale yellow with black stripes and spots on the body and tail. The adults are much darker, with lighter tan or grey areas.

Sometimes mistaken for the Malayan water monitor lizard. The lizard's snout is short and narrow, and tail is long and slender. A crocodile has a long snout and a much thicker fatter tail.

The lizard often swims by placing its limbs against its body and undulating its long tail from side to side. The crocodile may swim in the same way as the lizard. It may also often sink into the murky water and emerge some distance away. Sometimes, all that sticks out above water are the crocodile's eyes and the tip of its long snout.

On land, a large monitor lizard can look scary and be mistaken for a crocodile! Once again, observe that the lizard has a short snout and slender tail. And the lizard has a long blue forked tongue which it regularly flicks out now and then. The crocodile doesn't have such a tongue. A crocodile on the other hand, has a long snout and jaws full of teeth! And a thick fat tail. Its scales are also much bigger.

Why does a crocodile smile? Sometimes, a crocodile might have its mouth wide open. This is how a crocodile tries to cool down on a hot day (much like the way a dog pants). It's not doing this to show aggression or to get ready to bite.

What does it eat? Juveniles eat insects, frogs, crabs and fishes. Adults eat larger prey including fish, birds and mammals, hunting mainly at night. They may also scavange on carrion. Despite our worst fears, crocodiles don't eat people. Like any wild animal, crocodiles will not harm humans if they are not disturbed or threatened, and if we keep a respectful distance from them.

Crocodile babies: A mother crocodile specially constructs a nest of vegetation in which about 80 eggs are laid. The warmth of the decomposing vegetation incubates the eggs. The mother fiercely guards the nest.

What to do if we see a crocodile? Admire this magnificent creature, from a distance. Like any wild animal, crocodiles will not harm humans if they are not disturbed or threatened, and if we keep a respectful distance from them.

Here's NParks's advice on what you should do to stay safe

  • Stay on desinated paths, don't get into the water.
  • If a crocodile is spotted on the path, stay calm and back away slowly.
  • Do not approach, provoke or feed the crocodile.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Feb 10

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Sep 09
Photo shared by Teo Siyang on his blog.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Oct 09
Photo shared by Brandon Chia on his flickr.
Status and threats: Our Estuarine crocodiles are listed as 'Critically Endangered' in the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore. They are threatened by habitat loss and human persecution. Also considered threatened globally, although successful captive breeding has reduced hunting pressure on wild populations. They are hunted for their skin which is used to make leather goods such as shoes and handbags. Their meat is also eaten.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Oct 09
Photo shared by Brandon Chia on his flickr.

Estuarine crocodiles on Singapore shores

Photos of Estuarine crocodiles for free download from wildsingapore flickr

Distribution in Singapore on this wildsingapore flickr map

crocodile @ sg buloh from SgBeachBum on Vimeo.

croc undercover @ SBWR from SgBeachBum on Vimeo.

solar-croc @ SBWR from SgBeachBum on Vimeo.

crocodylus porosus @ Sg Buloh 23Apr2011 from SgBeachBum on Vimeo.

croc on the path @ SBWR 08May2011 from SgBeachBum on Vimeo.

juvenile estuarine croc @ SBWR 26June2011 from SgBeachBum on Vimeo.

disappearing croc @ sg buloh wetland reserve - Oct2012 from SgBeachBum on Vimeo.

Crocodiles recorded for Singapore
from Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore.

  Family Crocodylidae
  Crocodylus porosus (Estuarine crocodile)
Crocodylus siamensis
Tomistoma schlegelii
(Sunda gavial)




  • Marcus Ng and Robert W. Mendyk. 2012. Predation of an Adult Malaysian Water monitor (Varanus salvator macromaculatus) by an Estuarine Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). Biawak, 6(1), pp. 34-38, by International Varanid Interest Group.
  • Lim, Kelvin K. P. & Francis L K Lim, 1992. A Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Singapore Singapore Science Centre. 160 pp.
  • Baker, Nick and Kelvin Lim. 2008. Wild Animals of Singapore: A Photographic Guide to Mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians and Freshwater Fishes Vertebrate Study Group, Nature Society (Singapore). 180 pp.
  • Cox, Merel J., Peter Paul van Dijk, Jarujin Nabhitabhata and Kumthorn Thirakhupt. 1998. A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore New Holland.
  • Davison, G.W. H. and P. K. L. Ng and Ho Hua Chew, 2008. The Singapore Red Data Book: Threatened plants and animals of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore). 285 pp.
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