Fun Cuban Crocodile Facts For Kids

Moumita Dutta
Nov 16, 2022 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Fact-checked by Deeti Gupta
Cuban crocodiles are strong swimmers.

When it comes to the strength of their bite and their sheer size, the Cuban crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer) is not really the top of the crocodylidae family. Many studies, however, crown adult Cuban crocodiles as the most aggressive species of all crocodiles.

Moreover, they are also likely the most intelligent species of the lot. Crocodiles tend to be solitary predators, i.e.

they are self-reliant in catching their prey from start to finish.

However, Cuban crocodiles are known to exhibit pack-hunting behavior in captivity. Pack-hunting is something otherwise almost unheard of in extant species of crocodiles.

Cuban crocodiles are also one of the rarest crocodile species - there are only about 3,000-5,000 of them.

Its unique qualities - such as its great curiosity - coupled with the fact that it is also a Critically Endangered species as listed by the IUCN, makes it a very iconic life form that Cuba prizes greatly and has attempted to preserve of late.

A few miles south of Havana, the Zapata Swamp is the Cuban crocodile's biggest home today. In Cuba, Castro's affinity to native Cuban wildlife is common knowledge.

But it is very apparent how he took the Cuban crocodile to be a point of personal and national pride, given how commonly he presented Cuban crocodiles to foreign allies as gifts and diplomatic tokens.

If you like what you read check out the dwarf crocodile and the saltwater crocodile.

Cuban Crocodile Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Cuban crocodile?

The Cuban crocodile is a moderately sized crocodile.

What class of animal does a Cuban crocodile belong to?

The Cuban crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer) is from the Reptilia class and the Crocodylus genus.

How many Cuban crocodiles are there in the world?

On account of being pushed to near extinction in the 1970s, the Cuban crocodile is one of the rarest species of crocodiles on earth. Many of the issues that caused their numbers to slowly dwindle in the last few centuries still persist. However, an optimistic estimate of the wild population of purebred Cuban crocodiles would be around 3000-5000.

Where does a Cuban crocodile live?

As opposed to species like the American crocodile, the Cuban crocodile is a freshwater crocodile. This means they inhabit wetlands - swamps, marshes, bogs, and flooded shrublands.

What is a Cuban crocodile's habitat?

As their name implies, the Cuban crocodile is found almost exclusively in Cuba. More specifically, they are found in the southern region of the Zapata peninsula, bred in the Zapata Swamp. A chunk of their population has also re-introduced to the Lanier Swamp on Isla de la Juventud or the Isle of Youth.

Who do Cuban crocodiles live with?

Most crocodiles, and for that matter, most reptiles, tend to lead solitary lives. However, they can and do form social bonds to a limited extent.

In the case of Cuban crocodiles, they do not have a cohesive social structure so to speak, but an interesting point here is that they are intelligent enough to form a social hierarchy in captivity.

They can go as far as to hunt in packs - which is a wild departure from how crocodiles traditionally hunt. But this has so far only been documented in captivity, and not a verified commonality in the wild.

Their social life out in the wild is mostly centered around competition over reproduction and resources. In captivity, they are known to have a social hierarchy where a dominant male seizes greater access to females to reproduce.

Cuban crocodiles can engage in group competition over greater portions of a large kill.

As crocodiles are ectothermic, they use the heat of the sun to boost their metabolism - usually after a meal. They often do this in a group, basking close to one another.

How long does a Cuban crocodile live?

The average lifespan of a Cuban crocodile is 50-75 years.

How do they reproduce?

Generally, the breeding season for the Cuban crocodiles begins in May and lasts for a few months. Eggs are laid around September.

In captivity, however, it is reported that Cuban crocodile reproduction can take place from September through April as well. In any case, this is when the female Cuban crocodile starts nesting.

The female then lays 30-40 eggs after constructing or digging hole nests.

The exact number of eggs can vary and even go up to 90, but this depends mostly on the health, age, and size of the mother crocodile. On average, the eggs hatch after an incubation period of 50-70 days.

Now, it should be noted that even though an average of 40 is a decent number for swift population growth, in reality, many hatchlings die very early. The eggs are a target for many creatures, and mature Cuban crocodiles themselves are known to cannibalize the younglings for sustenance in some cases.

What is their conservation status?

As per IUCN listings, the Cuban crocodile is a Critically Endangered species. The endangered crocodiles were in fact cited in appendix 1 of the CITES in 1975.

Although they are highly intelligent and adaptable, crocodile leather and meat became luxurious vogues in the early 1900s. They were such a prized target for hunters that most of their population was killed off between 1800 and 1950 - and illegal hunting of the endangered Cuban crocodile is still an issue.

As we mentioned earlier, the Fidel Castro regime had done much to take early steps in the conservation of the Cuban crocodiles.

Had it not been for initiatives like the Zapata swamp breeding facility, Cuban crocodiles might have even gone extinct by now. Even today, the Cuban crocs face competition for resources with caiman gators in the bogs of the Lanier swamp.

The species is also under a different threat that diminishes their number as well: interbreeding. Hybridization is a crisis that meddles with the integrity of the already rare Cuban croc's gene pool.

Precedents in our natural history have proven time and time again what an insidious eraser of species hybridization can be. The Cuban saltwater crocodile populace, i.e.

American crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus), another crocodile species native to Cuba, are far more common and widely distributed.

The American crocodiles of Cuba can and do interbreed with the Cuban crocs. American crocodiles are morphologically, and even behaviorally, different - and in a genetic battle of the Cuban crocodile vs. American crocodile, the latter wins out.

The intermingling of the two species in practise causes the erasure of Cuban crocodile traits from the offspring. To counter hybridization, there are government initiatives for selective Cuban crocodile breeding and reintroducing purebreds onto Isla de la Juventud.

Cuban Crocodile Fun Facts

As estimated from the Cuban crocodile behavioral patterns, they are the most intelligent and curious species of crocodile.

One of the most intriguing facts about Cuban crocodile babies is how their sex is determined: through temperature. Male Cuban crocodiles hatch only when the internal nest temperature is between 86-89.6 F (30-32 C). Any higher or lower than this results in a female Cuban hatchling.

What do Cuban crocodiles look like?

The scientific name for the Cuban crocodile is Crocodylus rhombifer.

Cuban crocodiles exhibit the textbook features of a freshwater crocodile: less than average webbing on their feet to help them navigate the land, and a broader head. They have distinctive bony ridges that stretch from behind the eyes that can look like their eyebrows or their ears depending on which angle you take.

Their scales cover them like armor plating, and these scales are darker in colour near their spine - usually in speckles of black and yellow.

Underneath, on their belly, however, the color is pale and can vary from olive green to grey. They have up to 68 teeth, out of which the rear teeth are blunt, with bite force strong enough for crushing turtle shells.

How cute are they?

The word cute is subjective. The hatchlings of this crocodile may appear cute to some, but the adult crocodiles are decidedly not cute. Cuban crocodiles are in truth quite dangerous, and it is downright terrifying when a scaly beast is charging at you at the speed of a car.

How do they communicate?

Like all crocodiles, they possess no vocal cords, but they can still communicate a great variety of emotions and messages by bellowing, hissing, grunting, and growling in varying intonations.

How big is a Cuban crocodile?

The Cuban crocodile is not the biggest species out there. An adult Cuban crocodile size can be up to 11 ft (3.5 m) from head to tail. That is roughly double the height of the average human.

How fast can a Cuban crocodile move?

A set of rather strong legs can allow the average Cuban crocodile running speed to go up to 20mph (32 kph). They are also strong swimmers despite the reduced webbing on their feet.

How much does a Cuban crocodile weigh?

The average Cuban crocodile weight is about 180 lb (80 kg). But it can vary by age, gender, and other factors - the heaviest known Cuban crocodile was over 440 lb (200 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

Female crocodiles are called cows, and males are called bulls. Visually, there is not any way to reliably tell a male from a female Cuban crocodile. Males on average tend to be larger, but this is not universally true. The only way to be certain would be an inspection of the sex organs in their 'vent'.

What would you call a baby Cuban crocodile?

After the mother incubates the egg for 70 days or less, the young ones that come out are called hatchlings. The mother accompanies the hatchling at all times for nearly a year after the eggs hatch.

What do they eat?

Cuban crocodiles are not manhunters as such and thrive on small mammals. While hatchlings are full with a serving of small fish, adult Cuban crocodiles go for bigger prey, like turtles. Their blunt rear teeth are specialized for crushing turtle shells.

Are they dangerous?

Although they are not dubbed 'man-eaters' like the Nile crocodile, Cuban crocodiles are still apex predators fully capable of overwhelming almost any living animal in the water. Some also call them the most aggressive species of crocodiles.

Would they make a good pet?

Cuban crocodiles are quite curious and interactive. If you visit one in a national zoo, chances are that it will arrest attention with some intriguing shenanigans - such as eating citruses. But not only are they dangerous, but the fact that they are Critically Endangered also makes keeping one as a pet unethical.

Did you know...

Cuban crocodiles are the most terrestrial of the Crocodilia. In other words, they prefer the land more than any other crocodile species does, and spend the majority of their time on land.

What is unique about a Cuban crocodile's range?

Fossil records suggest that Cuban crocodiles are not exclusively native to Cuba, but were also found elsewhere in the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas. But currently, their geographic range is only about 139 sq mi (360 sq km) in the Zapata swamp and one-tenth of that on the Isle of Youth.

This makes them the species of the crocodile with the most limited range.

Can Cuban crocodiles 'jump'?

Cuban crocodiles have highly developed long legs which can help them jump higher than the average crocodile species. They can also use their tail to propel themselves into a leap even when in water.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles including crocodiles and alligators.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our crocodile coloring pages.

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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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Fact-checked by Deeti Gupta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Deeti Gupta picture

Deeti GuptaBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

A detail-oriented fact-checker with a research-oriented approach. Devika has a passion for creative writing, she has been published on multiple digital publishing platforms and editorials before joining the Kidadl team. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from St.Xavier's College, Deeti has won several accolades and writing competitions throughout her academic career.

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