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chinese alligator conservation actions


The Chinese alligator is believed to have inspired the mythical Chinese dragon!


The Chinese alligator is the only alligator that exists in the wild outside the US. It is also much smaller than the more common American alligator (almost half its size!). Historically, this alligator was widespread throughout the marshes and lakes along the Lower Yangtze river in China, the longest river in Asia. However, habitat loss and being hunted for meat has greatly reduced their range. Today, this alligator’s presence is limited to southeastern Anhui Province. Hunting and human disturbance has modified their behavior, forcing them to stay in their tunnels for most of the day so they can only hunt during the night.

As aquatic predators, Chinese alligators are historically vital to maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Their loss can cause an unchecked rise in prey populations (animals below the alligator in the food chain). If one species’ role in the natural community is disturbed, it affects all other species and creates an imbalance.  


The alligator is said to have great importance in Chinese culture because of its association with the mythical Chinese dragon. This dragon, made infamous by pop-culture, was partly inspired by the Chinese alligator. Ancient Chinese literature and art feature paintings of dragons that suggest this influence. Despite this connection, today the Chinese alligator is one of the two most endangered crocodilian species in the world, the other one being the Philippine crocodile.



A Pint-Sized Alligator Disappearing From The Wild

This species is currently listed as critically endangered.



The current threats to the Chinese alligator are habitat loss to make space for agricultural fields, dam construction, and human-animal conflict. Conflict tends to occur because these alligators are seen as pests for intruding on agricultural land and eating poultry on these farms. Today, there are around 150 Chinese alligators that exist in the wild. A couple hundred are held in captive breeding programs at American and European institutions and several thousand are kept in captivity in China.


Many conservation organisations are working to protect the Chinese alligator. The IUCN/SSC Crocodile Specialist Group is currently reviewing an Action Plan for Chinese alligator conservation. This plan will map out the actions required to continue the protection and building of the wild alligator population. Over recent years, alligators have been released into reclaimed habitats with alligators supplied by both Chinese and US zoos and breeding centers. The released animals appear to be breeding, and with further habitat ear-marked for future releases, the immediate future for Chinese alligators looks favorable. However, with the almost 100% loss of habitat, they will never again be as widespread or numerous in the wild as they once were.

By exhibiting Chinese alligators and raising some awareness and interest in them, zoos such as Crocodiles of the World are aiming to not only inspire the next generation of crocodile conservationists, but to also raise funds to support programs within China. They are also working on a captive-breeding program for the species.








Our allies at Crocodiles of the World suggests that these actions can help protect them:  

  1. Head to the IUCN Red List web site and read up on Chinese alligator conservation:

  2. Check out the Crocodile Specialist Group website for further information and action planning for crocodilians:

  3. Come and visit Crocodiles of the World to see some Chinese alligators, talk with staff and learn more about them. We can then help you get more involved with Chinese alligator conservation.

  4. Conservation of wildlife and plants is all about protecting the world’s biodiversity. This means understanding that many human activities have detrimental effects on the environment – both locally and globally. It is all about sustainability: if we can use resources in a sustainable manner, then we can reduce the negative impacts. You can start to look at labels and seek out those brands that use sustainable programs for their ingredients, such as sustainable palm oil in many products. Reuse plastic bags, and dispose of them properly, recycle as much as possible, turn lights out when not in the room to reduce power consumption, reuse water where you can. Some of these actions seem minor, but if everyone does them, then they all add up to huge actions that will reduce our impact on the world’s environment.

  5. You can check out these website for more information on how we can help protect the planet, and therefore the wildlife, plants, and our own future:



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