Chinese Alligator at the Louisville Zoo

Alligator, Chinese

Originally, widely distributed throughout China. Now only found in a small province called Anhui in eastern China (In agricultural ponds, around the lower Yangtze River).

Slow moving freshwater rivers and streams, lakes, ponds and swamps.

SIZE (Small Crocodilian)
Weight: Up to 75 pounds. (NOTE: males are typically larger than females)
Length: 4–6.5 feet

Wild: 35–50 years
Captivity: unknown

DIET (Carnivore)
Wild (Juvenile): Small invertebrates such as insects, small fish, and frogs
Wild (Adult): Opportunistic feeders; usually aquatic invertebrates such as freshwater mussels or anything within range, including domestic ducks and fish.
Zoo: Juveniles eat mice, adults eat rats


  • Mate in open water
  • Males roar during mating season
  • Females reach maturity in 4–5 years
  • Females build nest in muddy banks
  • Females lay 10–40 eggs one week after mating
  • Temperature of the nest determines the sex of the young
  • Eggs hatch after 72 days


  • Not much is known. Although they live near developed areas locals consider these alligators as a nuisance and will destroy a wild alligator
  • Constructs agriculturally destructive burrows and hibernate during cooler seasons for approximately 6–7 months
  • Mainly hunt at night (nocturnal)
  • Rarely attack larger animals, unlike the American alligator


  • Crocodilians traced back 230 million years
  • Known locally as the “Muddy dragon”
  • Do not feed during cooler months
  • They do not have webbed toes as the American alligator
  • They have bony plates (palpebrals) on the upper eye ridges. Although wild nuisance animals are taken to market for meat, their skins are too thickly plated to be used for leather
  • Their teeth are better adapted for crushing items such as freshwater mussels
  • There are only 130 individuals in the wild. But over 10,000 have been successfully raised in captivity


  • Classified as critically endangered IUCN Red list, CR A1c, D, 1994 and on Cites Appendix I. These alligators are critically endangered followed by the Philippine, Siamese, Cuban and Orinoco crocodiles.
  • Habitat destruction is the main source of population decline, as the wetland areas are being modified into agricultural areas for raising domestic duck. Building dams is a factor as well.