Recent efforts in Shanghai, China have resulted in the successful birth of baby alligators in the wild — providing hope for the regrowth of a critically endangered population.
Alligator sinensis is the scientific name for the Chinese alligator and is one of only two species of alligators remaining in the entire world, the other being Alligator mississippiensis, the American alligator. The Chinese Alligator is endemic to Eastern China and has historically ranged in large numbers across the country. Industrialization and exponential population growth throughout the early 1990s resulted in widespread habitat destruction and by the 1970s the species persisted in small numbers throughout parts of southern Anhui and the Zhejiang provinces.
Today, less than 150 Chinese alligators remain in the wild, in scattered families throughout limited wetland areas — making for difficult natural reproduction.
Beginning in 2007, scientists out of East China Normal University paired with the Chongming Dongtan Wetland Park and local zoos to introduce captive-bred Chinese alligators into wild families located in Dongtan Wetland Park in Shanghai. Twelve genetically diversified animals have since been released into the dwindling population.
The project has thus far been successful, confirmed by the discovery of a first batch of hatchlings only one year after the initial captive-bred species integration.
In September earlier this year three baby alligators were photographed in Dongtan Wetland Park, protected by the government’s continued support of the repopulation program.
The Wildlife Conservation Society officially reported these findings at a conference in late October, offering substantial public proof of an effective method to save this dying species.
Similar to the American alligator, only recently removed from the endangered species list and now roaming in widespread numbers, restoration of the Chinese alligator in the wild may prove to an inspiring conservation success story.