Chinese Alligator

Chinese Alligator

Scientific Name: Alligator sinensis
Common Names: Chinese Alligator, China Alligator

Maximum adult length: 1.8 metres (5.9 feet)


N.B. Exceptionally large specimens can be found in all species of crocodilian.


Chinese alligators, also known as Yangtze alligators, live in just a small part of northeastern China. It is one of two known living species of alligator. Adult males grow to about 2 metres (6.5 feet) and can weigh up to 40 kg (88 lb). They are mostly found in slow moving bodies of water such as streams, rivers and swamps. For 5-6  months of each year they hibernate (or aestivate) within burrows or dens. Chinese alligator burrows are some of the most extensive within the crocodilian world, extending for up to 25m, with various side channels that accommodate multiple animals within the same burrow.


The Chinese alligator is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

It is listed on CITES Appendix I.


Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered A1c, D ver 2.3
Year Published: 1996
Date Assessed: 1996-08-01


chinese alligator status

Countries: China (Anhui, Jiangsu, Zhejiang)


The Chinese alligator originally ranged through much of China. However, today this species is mostly restricted to a 433 square kilometre reserve in the Anhui province of the lower Yangtze. At this point, the alligator’s geographic range has been reduced by 90%.


Reintroduction efforts are currently underway in three other provinces in eastern China.

Chinese alligators are mainly active at night and do much of their hunting under the cover of darkness. They feed on aquatic invertebrates (mainly snails, clams, and mussels, for which their teeth are specially adapted), and vertebrates such as fish. Like all crocodilians, they are opportunistic and will take other prey when available, including waterbirds and small mammals. Unfortunately, their taste for ducks has historically seen them persecuted by local duck farmers!

The Chinese alligator is one the world’s most endangered crocodilians.


Recent progress by the Chinese government means the future outlook is a little brighter. Habitat destruction has been the major cause of decline, with most wetland areas being affected due to human population pressures. Today both Chinese and international law protect it.


Breeding centres are the main focus of re-establishing the species. The largest of them, the Anhui Research Center for Chinese Alligator Reproduction (ARCCAR), was founded in 1979, and stocked with over 200 alligators collected from the wild over the following decade. This facility now has many thousands of alligators in captive conditions. With the help of the council of China, some alligator habitat has been restored and protected, and reintroducing captive-bred animals into wild habitats has commenced slowly. The wild population has now grown from a low of around 80 adults to perhaps 150. Some breeding in these reintroduced populations has been observed – a very positive sign!


Est. wild population: Less than 150
Main conservation threats: Habitat destruction, illegal hunting (historically), population fragmentation and persecution


IUCN Red List (September, 2014)


At the zoo

We are currently have a small group of Chinese alligators maintained off-display to increase the likelihood of breeding. The species can be problematic to breed in captivity, so our program will hopefully enable us to make a contribution to the knowledge of the breeding biology and parameters required for this species.


The alligators sustain a much cooler winter than the more tropical caimans and crocodiles, so we have to replicate this in our breeding enclosure, permitting their temperatures in winter to drop to around 10-12°C, and providing the gators with dens in which they can spend the cold winters – just as they would in their native Anhui province of China.



  • Deborah Doye
  • Oliver Phillips
  • Ben Clarke

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