Crocodylus acutus


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Crocodylus acutus
Species Authority: (Cuvier, 1807)
Common Name(s):
English American Crocodile
Spanish Cocodrilo Americano, Caiman, Caiman de costa, Caiman aguja, Cocodrilo de Río, Lagarto Amarillo, Lagarto Real
French Crocodile d'Amérique, Crocodile Americain
Crocodilus acutus Cuvier, 1807
Taxonomic Notes: This species is hybridizing with Crocodylus moreletii in Belize (Ray et al. 2004) and the Yucatan of Mexico (Cedeno-Vasquez et al. 2008, Rodriguez et al. 2008) and with Crocodylus rhombifer in Cuba (R. Soberon, R. Ramos pers comm.) a factor that has not yet been factored in to conservation efforts.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2cd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2009-06-30
Assessor(s): Ponce-Campos, P., Thorbjarnarson, J. & Velasco, A. (IUCN SSC Crocodile Specialist Group)
Reviewer(s): Bohm, M., Collen, B., Ram, M., Ross, J.P., Dacey, T. & Webb, G.J.W.
Contributor(s): De Silva, R., Milligan, HT, Wearn, O.R., Wren, S., Zamin, T., Sears, J., Wilson, P., Lewis, S., Lintott, P. & Powney, G.
Crocodylus acutus has undergone severe declines due to overexploitation and habitat loss. There are conservation measures in most regions and established captive breeding programmes, however, habitat loss and illegal hunting remain ongoing threats. For these reasons, C. acutus has been assessed as Vulnerable. A population decline of 30% has been inferred over the last three generations (75 years) because of habitat quality decline and exploitation. Continued monitoring and conservation actions are required for this species.
1996 Vulnerable

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The American Crocodile is the most widely distributed of the New World crocodiles, distributed in the Atlantic from the southern tip of Florida and the Caribbean islands of Cuba, Jamaica and Hispaniola to the Yucatan of Mexico and south to Colombia and Venezuela.  An isolated subpopulation is found in the Rio Grijalva basin in Mexico. Along the Pacific coast it is found from Northern Sinaloa in Mexico to the limits of mangrove coastal habitats in northern Peru. This species is found up to 1,200 m above sea level.
Belize; Colombia; Costa Rica; Cuba; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; El Salvador; Guatemala; Haiti; Honduras; Jamaica; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama; Peru; United States (Florida); Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Overexploitation from the 1930s to the 1960s led to a severe decline in the abundance of this species. In the USA, the population is recovering and now inhabits most of their remaining habitat in southern Florida over a larger area than in 1978 when it was protected (Mazzotti et al. 2007). In the other countries in its range, protection has resulted in some recovery, but overall numbers are still depleted in some countries such as Colombia and Ecuador, but substantial recovery has taken place in other areas including Cuba, Costa, Mexico and Venezuela (Thorbjarnarson et al. 2006).
Population Trend: Increasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species mainly occurs in coastal habitats such as lagoons, mangrove swamps and other brackish water, however, it can also inhabit freshwater and landlocked reservoirs.  Eggs are laid in nests on elevated beach ridges, preferably bordered by brackish lagoons to serve as hatchling habitat (Platt and Thorbjarnarson 2000).

Crocodylus acutus is a hole-nesting species, but is adaptable in terms of nesting ecology, in some areas creating elevated mounds of substrate into which eggs are deposited (Thorbjarnarson 1989). Clutch size is typically 30 to 60 eggs, although in some populations mean clutch size is in the low 20s (Platt and Thorbjarnarson 2000). As with most hole nesting species, C. acutus nests during the annual dry season, with eggs hatching around the beginning of the annual rainy period (Thorbjarnarson 1989, Casas-Andreu 2003). The American Crocodile is adept at using man-made areas for nesting, and this is one of the reasons behind its population recovery in parts of its range (Mazzotti et al. 2007).
Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater; Marine

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Captive breeding farms are registered by CITES in Cuba, Honduras and Colombia and 200-650 skins/year legally entered trade between 2003 and 2005 from these farms. Illegal hunting of this species still occurs for its hides.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species was hunted and overexploited for its hides in the 1930s until it was protected in the 1970s, however, illegal hunting still occurs. It is also threatened by habitat degradation from coastal development, including destruction of nesting grounds and the destruction of mangrove swamps for shrimp aquaculture. In the Dominican Republic, overharvesting of fish has contributed to the declines of this species (Ross 1998). When young, individuals of this species may also be predated by birds, raccoons, coati, dogs, and by adult crocodiles (i.e., cannibalism).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: A review of the status and distribution of C. acutus throughout its range was carried out relatively recently (Thorbjarnarson et al. 2006), and found the species to be recovering in most parts of its historic range. There were a few areas where population recovery appears to be limited (e.g., Colombia), or non-existent (e.g., Ecuador), but populations of C. acutus in areas such as Cuba, the US and Costa Rica appear to be very healthy.

There are management measures in place in all countries where this species occurs, with the exception of El Salvador and Haiti. However, enforcement of protection is lacking and urgently needed, since illegal hunting remains a threat (Ross 1998). There are protected areas and sanctuaries for this species as well as captive breeding programmes and a few commercial farming operations are established. It is listed on Appendix I of CITES. Further research into the population, habitat requirements, and threats to this species should be carried out, and population monitoring is recommended.

Bibliography [top]

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Citation: Ponce-Campos, P., Thorbjarnarson, J. & Velasco, A. (IUCN SSC Crocodile Specialist Group) 2012. Crocodylus acutus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 28 August 2015.
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