Originating in the Tibetan Plateau, the Yangtze runs through 19 provinces, nourishing the Yangtze River Basin before emptying into the East China Sea. Only in the highland forests in its upper reaches can you find the beloved giant panda. Apart from the giant panda, the Yangtze River Basin supports a dazzling variety of animal species, many on the brink of extinction. The red panda, Chinese alligator, Chinese giant salamander, Yangtze sturgeon, golden monkey and many others share the habitat of the giant panda. Endearing and most loved of the bears, the giant panda is an umbrella species – the conservation of the forest home of the giant panda also benefits the other species that share its habitat.
Measuring 1.8 metres long and weighing in at over 60 kilograms, the Chinese giant salamander is the world’s largest amphibian and tops the list of oddest endangered amphibians with its bizarre looks. It has been around since the age of the dinosaurs and ancient records of it in China date back 2,200 years ago.
Chinese giant salamanders are well camouflaged along the river bed by the greyish-brown mottled patterns on their body. Try spotting our pair of giant salamanders in their exhibit!
Comparison with fossils from over 200 million years ago show that the sturgeon has remained basically unchanged since. These 'living dinosaurs' are closely related to the paddlefish (the Yangtze is home to the Chinese paddlefish as well but it has not been sighted since 2003 and is possibly extinct).
The sturgeon uses sensitive whisker-like barbels at the end of its toothless mouth to locate food. Look out for our sturgeons feeding at the bottom of the exhibit.
The Yangtze River exhibit is home to the Chinese alligator, one of the world’s rarest crocodilians. The only alligator species to live outside the Americas, the Chinese alligator is similar in looks to the American alligator but smaller in size..
While the American alligator is only armoured on its back, the Chinese alligator is entirely covered in bony plates, including its belly and upper eyelids. It lies dormant in underground burrows during China’s cold winters.