A full-grown Chinese alligator is only about half as big as its cousin, the American alligator. Despite its fearsome reputation, it is shy and too small to be much of a threat to humans, yet human activities are pushing it along the path of decline.
Habitat loss, collection, over-hunting, and direct persecution are putting the survival of the estimated 150 Chinese alligators remaining in the wild at risk. Chinese alligators hatched at zoos in the United States are being reintroduced into the wild in China to ensure the species’ survival.
Alligator is from the Spanish word el lagarto which means “the lizard”.
To survive the cold, dry months, Chinese alligators take refuge in caves or burrows and brumate (hibernation, reptile-style).
Where to see them: Reptile House
Length: Up to 6.5 ft
Weight: 50 to 85 lbs
Habitat: Rivers, streams, marshes, and other bodies of water
Diet: Fish, mussels, and other small animals
Risk Status: Species at Risk (IUCN—Critically endangered)
Myth-Inspiring: The mythical Chinese dragon was likely inspired by the Chinese alligator.