Posted by: Loren Coleman on June 23rd, 2008
Fishermen in the eastern province of Anhui (near Hefei) have found a wild Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis), which is being called a living fossil, and tracks of another, local authorities said on Monday, June 23, 2008.
The Chinese or Yangtze alligator is native only to China. It is smaller than the other alligator species, the American alligator, growing to an average of 5 feet (1.5 m) in length. Some Chinese specimens have been known to be 7 feet long. Unlike the American Alligator, the Chinese alligator is fully armored; even the belly is armored which is a feature on only a few crocodilians.
While it originally ranged through much of China, this species’ wild habitat has been reduced to little more than a few ponds containing a small number of animals (<200 individuals, only approximately 50 of which are mature).
The 20-kilogram reptile was discovered last week in a pond in Wanshou Village, Wuhu County while villagers were fishing. It was believed to have been living in the village for more than 40 years, said experts with the national nature reserve for the Chinese alligators.
The alligator was released to the pond after an investigation, experts said.
Villagers also saw what appeared to be the tracks of another, larger specimen in neighboring Gangshan Village, said Hong Ning, Wuhu Forestry Administration director.
In Wuhu, once a major habitat of the reptile, not one animal has been sighted for nearly 30 years due to human activities, he said.
The Chinese alligator, also known as the Yangtze alligator, was very plentiful more than 230 million years ago, particularly on the eastern seaboard. But now, with a population of no more than 150 in the wild, it is listed one of the world’s most endangered creatures.
China has put the Chinese alligator at the top level of its protection list. In 1979, the Chinese Alligator Breeding Research Center was set up in Anhui. Since then, the number of alligators at the center has risen from about 200 to more than 10,000.
Source: “Wild Chinese alligator, ‘living fossil,’ found in E China,” Xinhua News Service, Editor: Wang Hongjiang