A. sinensis is a species of alligator endemic to China and found only in the lower Yangtze River region. It is a freshwater reptile that inhabits slow-moving bodies of water and hibernates in the winter in complex underground burrows. It is one of the smaller crocodilian species, at around two metres long and weighing 40kg.
The Chinese alligator and the Philippine crocodile are currently the two most endangered species of crocodilians. A. sinensis was once widely spread throughout the Yangtze River system but today its population in the wild is severely fragmented and almost extirpated. Along with several other species endemic to the Yangtze River, destruction of their habitat has been the driving force behind the Chinese alligator’s critical endangerment, namely through the building of dams and the conversion of marshland to agriculture. The species also has to contend with human contact and as development spreads, crocodiles are killed out of fear and for their organs that are coveted in Chinese medicine.
The Anhui Research Centre of Chinese Alligator Reproduction was established in 1979 and has been very successful in the captive breeding of A. sinensis, housing most of the 10,000 individuals that have been bred in captivity worldwide in its 26 protected reserves. There is also a new attempt by the Chinese government to create purpose built habitats in other provinces in which these captive bred animals can be released back into the wild. Nonetheless, as with any species that is perceived as a threat or as a source of profit, public education on the decline of the Chinese alligator is paramount to its survival.