Understanding the spatial distribution and habitat utilization by animals play a significant role in wildlife conservation and habitat management for the benefits of both animals and communities living close to protected areas. This study was conducted to identify the distribution and habitat use of Crocodilus niloticus in Tekeze River Dam through qualitative and quantitative surveys based on diurnal survey, semi-structured questionnaire and geographic information system (GIS) spatial analysis methods. The Tekeze River Dam representing the study area was divided into seven stratified river stratum. All spatial data were recorded and analyzed using ArcGIS 10 software. The distribution revealed that C. niloticus were registered along the main river stretch and its tributaries. Majority of C. niloticus prefer river banks, shallow water depth and rocky ground to perform their activity patterns. Along the 71.2 km² of the study area delineated for habitat preferences, 9.78 km2 was the highly suitable habitat while 4.63 km2 was the least suitable. The influence on communal resources, fishery activities and irrigation practice at small-scale on river banks and increment of water level due to flooding of the Tekeze River Dam were among the primary causes of disturbances induced by human to C. niloticus distribution and its habitats. The perception of most respondents to the conservation of this specie was not encouraging although their presence in the river was important in keeping the ecological balance of the ecosystem. It is therefore suggested that the success of conservation programs and habitats management should focus on educating the local community to raise awareness and change their attitudes towards promoting conservation development initiatives of C. niloticus in the area.
Key words: Crocodilus niloticus, distribution, habitat preferences, Tekeze River Dam, threatened specie.
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