THE CHINESE ALLIGATOR SAVED FROM EXTINCTION
An Endangered Species Success Story: China’s Tu Long Alligator Saved From Going Extinct
After nearly going extinct, the Chinese alligator—one of only two true alligator species in the world—is once again reproducing in the wild. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) reports that, in 2008, 15 baby Chinese alligators hatched on Chongming Island at the mouth of the Yangtze River. The young alligators were offspring of parents that had been reintroduced into their native habitat from a number of captive-breeding facilities around the world, including New York’s Bronx Zoo. The WCS is the parent organization of the Bronx Zoo.
Chinese alligators are the most critically endangered of all members of the crocodile family; a 1999 survey turned up only 130 of the vanishing reptiles. The new hatchlings give the species a new chance for survival in the wild. Scientists began releasing alligators onto Chongming Island in 2003—and patiently waited for five years for the creatures to begin reproducing.
“Tu long” in Chinese means “muddy dragon.” The species once ranged widely over the watersheds of eastern China. Today, it is one of only two alligators in the world, the other being the American alligator. Some of the differences between alligators and crocodiles include the alligators’ broader snout and darker body color, and the fact that crocodiles’ teeth are visible even when their mouths are closed. While alligators exist only in China and the U.S., crocodiles are found in tropical and subtropical habitats all over the world.
The Yangtze River, where the Chinese alligators were reintroduced, is the third longest river in the world after the Amazon and the Nile. The river is also of vital economic importance to China, and is the site of the world’s largest hydro-electric dam, the Three Gorges Dam. High levels of development along the river have created many problems for native wildlife. In 2006, a comprehensive search for the Yangtze River dolphin, or baiji, failed to find any of the creatures, although a single dolphin was spotted in 2007. Photo Credit: Magalhaes
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