The CHINESE ALLIGATOR (
Alligator sinensis) (simplified Chinese :
扬子鳄; traditional Chinese : 揚子鱷, yáng zǐ è), also known
as the YANGTZE ALLIGATOR, is one of two known living species of
Alligator , a genus in the family
Alligatoridae . This critically
endangered species is endemic to eastern China .
* 1 Characteristics
* 2 Distribution and habitat
* 3 Behavior
* 3.1 Reproduction
* 4 Threatened status and conservation
* 4.1 In captivity
* 4.1.1 China
* 4.1.2 North America and Europe
* 5 See also
* 6 References
* 7 Further reading
* 8 External links
Detail of head
While its appearance is very similar to the only other living member
of the genus, the
American alligator (
Alligator mississippiensis), a
few differences exist. Usually, this species attains an adult length
of only 1.5 m (5 ft) and a mass of 36 kg (80 lb). Exceptionally large
males have reached 2.1 m (7 ft) in length and 45 kg (100 lb) in
weight. Reports are known of alligators in China reaching 3.0 m (10
ft) in centuries past, but these are now generally considered
apocryphal . Unlike the American alligator, the
Chinese alligator is
fully armored; even its belly —a feature of only a few crocodilians
DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT
Chinese alligator lives in a subtropical , warm
temperate region. The Chinese alligator's usual habitat was in places
of low-elevation and freshwater sources. This includes marshes, lakes,
streams, and ponds.
The alligator originally ranged through much of China. However, in
the 1950s, the
Chinese alligator was found only in the southern area
Yangtze River (Chang Jiang) from
Pengze to the western shore of
Lake Tai (Tai Hu), in the mountainous regions of southern
Anhui , and
Zhejiang provinces. They were usually found in the
lakes, streams, and marshes for a time. But in the 1970s, the species
was restricted to a small part of southern
Anhui and the Zhejiang
provinces. Then, in 1998 the biggest area the alligator lived in was
a small pond along the
Yangtze River surrounded by farmland, and only
11 alligators lived inside of it. At this point, the alligator's
geographic range had been reduced by 90%. The Chinese alligator's
population reduction has been mostly due to conversion of its habitat
to agricultural use. A majority of their usual wetland habitats has
been turned into rice paddies. Poisoning of rats , which the
alligators then eat, has also been blamed for their decline. It was
also not uncommon for people to kill the alligators, because they
believed they were pests, out of fear, or for their meat.
Pliocene remains have been uncovered in
Chinese alligator remains dormant during the winter, residing in
burrows built into banks of wetlands. Once the spring comes the
burrows are still used, just not as much. The alligators spend most of
their time raising their body temperature in the sun. Once their body
heat is high enough they become nocturnal . They can regulate their
body temperature easily by using the water, moving into the shade when
they begin to get too hot and moving into the sun if they begin to get
too cold. Chinese alligators are also considered the most docile of
the crocodilian order, but, as with any crocodilian, they are capable
of inflicting grievous bodily harm.
Though usually solitary, the
Chinese alligator participates in
bellowing choruses during the spring mating season. Both genders
participate in rough unison and during the chorus the alligators
remain still. The choruses last on average about 10 minutes and
interestingly enough respond to both the chorus of both genders
equally. It has been theorized that this is because the chorus is not
a mating competition, simply a way for mating groups to gather
together. It has also been theorized, however, that these choruses do
not serve any purpose. Once mating groups have gathered male Chinese
alligators impregnate only one female per season. Mating usually
results in around 20-30 eggs. The eggs of the
Chinese alligator are
actually the smallest of any crocodilian. Their eggs are even smaller
than other crocodilians with smaller female body sizes.
THREATENED STATUS AND CONSERVATION
Chinese alligator is a class one endangered species and listed as
CITES Appendix I species, which puts extreme restrictions on its
trade and exportation throughout the world. It is currently classified
Critically Endangered on the
IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List . To make that list,
the species must have a decline of greater than 80% of the species
population in a certain area of occupancy. In 1999, it was estimated
by the Wildlife Conservation Society that there were only around 150
individuals left in the wild. This coincided with a reversal of its
decline in the wild, the population stabilizing between 1998 and 2003,
followed by a slow and ongoing increase. Chinese alligators at
With the help of the council of China, alligator habitat has been
restored and protected. Most remaining wild individuals live in the
433 km2 (167 sq mi)
Alligator Nature Reserve.
Chinese alligator is mainly endangered because of habitat
pollution and reduction, as their distribution areas are turned into
rice paddies. Poaching is also a concern because in traditional
Chinese medicine the meat is considered to be a cure for the cold and
to prevent cancer. The organs are also believed to have medicinal
Extermination is also an issue, as farmers consider them a menace.
There are many other factors that led to the endangerment of the
alligator such as natural disasters, geographic separation, and
In several restaurants and food centers in China's booming areas,
young and immature alligators are allowed to roam free with their
mouths taped shut. They are subsequently killed for human consumption
as, in China, alligator meat is thought to cure colds and prevent
cancer . In China, the organs of the
Chinese alligator are sold as
cures for a number of ailments.
Captive breeding programs, the first initiated in the 1970s, have
been successful for the species, with over 10,000 Chinese alligators
living in captivity. Captive-born Chinese alligators have been
reintroduced back into their native range, to boost the wild
population. These releases have proven successful with individuals
adapting well to a life in the wild and also breeding.
The two largest breeding centers are located in, or near, the area
where Chinese alligators are still found in the wild. The largest of
Anhui Research Center for Chinese
(ARCCAR), was founded in 1979, and stocked with over 200 alligators
collected from the wild over the following decade. It also received
alligator eggs collected by the area's residents or ARCCAR's own staff
in the nests of wild alligators. The center is located on the
outskirts of the city of
118°46′20″E / 30.90833°N 118.77222°E / 30.90833;
118.77222 ), where it makes use of a series of ponds in a small
valley. The alligator breeding was so successful that ARCARR began to
use the alligators for local meat consumption and live animals for the
European pet market. The profits from these activities went to
continuing funding the breeding centers. ARCCAR alone has more than
10,000 Chinese alligators.
The other major breeding center is the Changxing Nature Reserve and
Breeding Center for Chinese Alligators (CNRBRCCA), located in
Changxing County ,
Zhejiang Province, some 92 km east of ARCCAR
(30°55′15″N 119°44′00″E / 30.92083°N 119.73333°E
/ 30.92083; 119.73333 ); it was earlier known as Yinjiabian Alligator
Conservation Area (尹家边扬子鳄保护区; established 1982).
Unlike ARCCAR, where alligator eggs are collected by the center's
staff for incubation in controlled condition, at Changxing they are
allowed to hatch naturally. According to a 2013 official report
quoted by Liu (2013), CNRBRCCA housed almost 4,000 alligators,
including over 2,000 young ones (1–3 years old), over 1,500
juveniles (4–12 years old), and 248 adults (13+ years old).
Both ARCARR and the Changxing Center position themselves as tourist
attractions, where paying visitors can view alligators and learn about
North America And Europe
Although by far the largest number of captive Chinese alligators are
at centers in its native country, the species is also kept and bred at
many zoos and aquariums in North America and Europe. Some individuals
bred there have been returned to China for reintroduction to the wild.
Among the North American zoos and aquariums keeping this species are
Bronx Zoo ,
Potawatomi Zoo ,
Toledo Zoo ,
Memphis Zoo , St. Louis Zoo
Philadelphia Zoo ,
Cincinnati Zoo , and
San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo . In Europe,
about 25 zoos and aquariums keep the species, such as Tierpark Berlin
Wildlands Adventure Zoo Emmen (Netherlands), Pairi Daiza
Bioparco di Roma (Italy),
Barcelona Zoo (Spain), Crocodile
Parken Zoo (Sweden),
Paradise Wildlife Park (England),
Prague Zoo (Czech Republic),
Tallinn Zoo (Estonia), and Moscow Zoo
Wildlife of China
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