Up to 70 years
under human care
under human care
and shellfish, also small animals along riverbanks
ponds, lakes, rivers and streams
river basin, China
As you walk along the Yangtze River exhibit, look out for the Yangtze or Chinese alligator. The Yangtze alligator can grow up to a length of 1.8 - 2.2m but is still considerably smaller than the American alligator. Unlike the American alligator, which is armoured only on its back, the Chinese alligator has a full ‘suit’ of armour, with bony plates protecting its belly as well as its upper eyelids.
Unlike crocodiles, alligators hibernate through the winter. Yangtze alligators dig dens in riverbanks known as ‘gator holes’, where they hibernate during the colder 7 months of the year.
Yangtze alligators lay eggs in nests near these ‘gator holes’. Mothers guard the nests during the 70-day incubation period till their eggs hatch.
Pollution has deprived the Yangtze alligators of their fish and crustacean prey. Farms and other buildings along the riverbank have displaced them from burrow sites. Farmers persecute them for stealing their livestock and out of a misplaced fear for their own safety - Yangtze alligators generally do not attack humans unless threatened.
Though they are farmed to meet the demand for its meat (considered a delicacy and a cure for cold and asthma), illegal hunting persists.
With a 90% population drop over the last twenty years, this is one of the world’s rarest crocodilians. Some 150 wild individuals remain, at Anhui National Nature Reserve for Chinese Alligator. Alligators bred there have been able to adapt to restored habitats, giving hope for its continued survival.