Also known as the Yangtze alligator, the Chinese alligator is one of the only two known extant alligator species. This species is native to the eastern parts of China. Adults are typically five feet long with an average mass of 80 pounds. In a few cases, some grow to seven feet long and may weigh up to 100 pounds. This alligator is one of a few crocodilians to be fully armored while its American counterpart is not.
Habitat and Range
Originally, this alligator was found in many parts of China. However, in the 1950s, it was found exclusively in the southern portion of the Yangtze River. Today, the majority of the creatures are limited only to a 433 kilometer reservation in the lower parts of the Yangtze River in Anhui province. The Chinese alligator prefers slow-moving rivers, and swampy regions with low heights and freshwater sources. Today, the few remaining are in agricultural ponds in the reservations.
Chinese alligators reside in burrows. In the winter, they are mostly dormant in the burrows but come out in the spring. They are cold-blooded and they spend a lot of time basking to raise their body heat. When the heat is high enough, they become nocturnal. Staying in the shade and in the water are some of the ways they can lower their temperatures.
The Chinese alligator is a carnivorous animal that feeds on small creatures and animals. Pond snails and shellfish are a particular delicacy. Other sources of food include fish, mussels, birds, and rodents. Chinese alligators do not attack humans but they are still capable of dealing mortal wounds to people.
Females mature at the age of around four or five. In the mating season, the alligators engage in making some noises. Both males and females make these sounds which last for around ten minutes. While producing these sounds, they remain still. Researchers have not been able to ascertain the exact purpose of these noises. Some theories put forth state that the sounds are made so that the alligators gather for mating while some theories claim the sounds to be useless. Only one female per season is impregnated resulting in 20 to 30 eggs. The eggs are the smallest among the crocodilians. The eggs are laid on nests made from plants.
The Chinese alligator is categorized as a critically endangered species. In 1999, surveys showed that less than 200 Chinese alligators existed. The primary reason for their decline has been the destruction of their habitat for farming, settlement, or other uses. Further, when present in a farm, their burrows interfere with drainage so farmers hunt and kill them. Fear by humans, damage to plants, and attacks on farm animals are other reasons they have been hunted.
Conservation efforts at the Anhui Research Center of Chinese Alligator Reproduction, established in 1979, have been very successful with the population now increased to more than 10,000. Wild populations are scattered but the Chinese government has allocated funds for new habitats of the alligators in captivity.