The order Crocodilia is globally represented by three groups, i.e. the alligators & caimans (family Alligatorinae), Gavials (family Gavialinae) and the true crocodiles (family Crocodylinae). Out of the 23 extant crocodile species in the world, two species, viz. the Saltwater or Estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porossus) and the Mugger or Marsh crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) inhabit Sri Lanka. The two species have been recorded from ca. 113 locations in the country with a majority from the Yala NP and the Wilpattu NP (Santiapillai & De Silva, 2000)
Crocodylus palustris, which is the most 'broad-snouted' true crocodile species, is found in large rivers, marshes, reservoirs and tanks in the low country dry zone. According to historical records it has been even recorded from the Jaffna peninsula (Ferguson, 1877), where it no longer occurs. The highest elevation from which a Mugger has been recorded from the country is 230m, in Randenigala reservoir along the Mahaweli river. At present it only occupies the first peneplain of the country and is abundant in the South-east region, particularly in Yala NP, Bundala NP and Panama, where both crocodile species are found together.
Crocodylus porossus is probably the largest of all living reptiles, with an adult body length ranging from 5-6 m and weighing over 1000 kg. It is also the most widely distributed crocodile species in the world as it can swim long distances in open sea and colonize new locations. According to Deraniyagala's records, these crocodiles were common in and around Colombo in the past but now are
seldom recorded. It mainly inhabits the mangrove swamps and river deltas in the coastal areas of the first peneplain, but has been recorded about 160 km inland from Aluthnuwara on the banks of the Mahaweli river ( Deraniyagala, 1953). Males are strictly territorial and solitary, unlike Crocodylus palutris, which normally occur and bask in groups. Both species of crocodile are threatened due to habitat
destruction, pouching and competition by inland fisheries etc., thus have been listed in several legal documents, including the 1999 IUCN redlist, where both are listed as 'Threatened'; in IUCN 2002 Global Red List, where Crocodylus palustris is listed as 'Vulnerable'; in the Appendix 1 of CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species), which provides protection from trade, and the Fauna & Flora Protection Ordinance (FFPO) of 1938. But still the numbers are decreasing at an alarming rate. (See Threats)
Genus Crocodylus Laurenti, 1768
- Crocodylus porossus Schneider, 1801; Saltwater or Estuarine crocodile (E); Gata kimbula (S)
- Crocodylus palustris Lesson, 1831; Mugger or Marsh crocodile (E); Hala kimbula (S)