In the past the Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis) was found throughout most of China. In the present Chinese Alligator also known as the Yangtze Alligator is found in just a small part of north-eastern China, in the lower Yangtze River. They are currently found only in the provinces of Jiangau, Zhejiang, and Anhui, and estimates indicate fewer than 200 individuals in the wild.
The Chinese alligator preferred habitat consists of slow-moving freshwater, and it can be found in lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, swamps, and marshes. They dig burrows and hibernate in them for 6-7 months of the year.
The Chinese alligator color is generally dark green to black. The juveniles are black with some bright yellow cross-branding, however they have fewer than the American alligator. The Chinese alligator scales on the belly are also ossified (turned to bone) like the back.
This species presents sexual dimorphism, the males are larger than the females. The Chinese alligator can grow to an average length of 1,5 m (5 ft), however it can reach 2,1 m (7 ft). They can weigh up to 45 kg (100 lbs).
Chinese alligators grow very slowly, reaching only about 60 cm (2 ft) long at the age of 2 years. They are not considered dangerous to humans, but as with all crocodiles they can inflict some damage.
Chinese Alligator - Diet
The Chinese alligator has nocturnal hunting habits. They feed primarily on small invertebrates like snails and mussels, and also vertebrates such as fish, frogs, and rats. Due to their relatively small size they rarely attack larger animals, unlike their relative the American alligator.
Chinese Alligator - Reproduction
The Chinese alligator females reach sexual maturity at about 4-5 years of age. The mating occurs in the summer between July and August, the female then builds a mounded nest of decaying plants and vegetation, laying between 10 and 50 eggs. The eggs hatch after a period of about 70 days.
Chinese Alligator - Conservation status and major threats
The main threat to the Chinese alligator is the habitat loss, due to the building of dams and transformation of the wetlands into agricultural use. Chinese alligators prove to be a quite prolific species in captivity, it's estimated that the total captive population is over 10,000 animals.
There are some reintroduction programs in place, and some captive-bred animals are being released to the wild. The Chinese alligator is listed as a CITES Appendix I species, which puts severe restrictions to their trade, and it is IUCN Red Listed as a critically endangered species.
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Did you know?
The saltwater crocodile is the largest reptile alive today.