Discovering the Crocodiles of the Guelta d’Archei

This week I started the surveys in the Guelta d’Archei to learn more about its small, isolated and little know population of crocodiles. On Monday morning I moved into my new home in Archei. Form here, I will go every day to the Guelta d’Archei to observe the crocodiles.

Very little is known about this population. According to some people there are between 5 and 9 crocodiles, but this hasn’t been confirmed in decades. In more recent times, no one saw more than 3 different crocodiles at the same time. The closest population of crocodiles, whose persistence hasn’t been confirmed due to the unrest in the region, is in the Tibesti (Brito et al. 2011), more than 700km away, too much even for the hardiest of crocodiles to travel.

A study by Hekkala and colleagues (2011) on DNA extracted from a dead crocodile found here in 1997, showed that these are Crocodylus suchus, the smaller, gentler and rarer cousin of the Nile crocodiles (C. niloticus). Which explains why people here are not bothered when they bath in the same ponds where, just a half hour after the guelta gets quiet, crocodiles swim and eat. Their more likely food source is the little fishes and frogs found in the water, and maybe the pigeons that fall dead from the sky in large numbers.

During the dry season, which goes from November to May, the water in the guelta is limited to a series of small ponds in the high guelta and a shallow stream, no more than 1km long, that flows towards the mouth of the canyon. This area is shared by the crocodiles, the people of the villages coming here to bath and collect water at the sources and domestic animals: dromedaries, donkeys and goats, that come here to drink.

At the end of my study, the results will be used by the RNCE management team to plan a strategy to conserve this relic population of crocodiles. Hopefully we can save this small population that has persisted in complete isolation for centuries.

To learn more about the Natural and Cultural Reserve of the Ennedi (RNCE) and about the other protected areas managed by African Parks visit their website

2 thoughts on “Discovering the Crocodiles of the Guelta d’Archei

  1. Hi Kiara

    We have been to Ennedi in March this year. Of course we visited the Guelta d’Archei. Unfortunately we haven’t seen any crocodile, also not any single sign of the presence of crocodiles. We saw your camera trap on the pool. I would be very much interested to get a few more first hand information about the crocodiles in the Guelta from you. Thank you very much in advance.


    1. Hi Christa,

      It doesn’t surprise me that you haven’t seen them, they hide very well under the rocks and only come out when the Guelta is quiet. I used to spend the whole afternoon at the top of the rocks with my binos in order to see them. We confirmed that there are only 4 crocodiles left in the Guelta d’Archei today, three of which are females, the fourth we are not sure about. Although it is normal for guelta crocodiles to live in populations of only around 5, usually during the rainy season the water connects several gueltas with small populations and it allows movement and genetic dispersion. This is not the case here, where the Guelta d’Archei is the only known guelta to still host crocodiles. The population is now monitored by African Parks, who manages the Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve, and they are working on a strategy to help these crocodiles survive.

      Let me know if you want to know more.

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