14,000 Critically Endangered ‘Muddy Dragon’ Alligators Returned To National Park
A huge number of critically endangered alligators have been returned to a national park after four months in hibernation.
The 14,000 Chinese alligators – also known as Yangtze alligators or ‘muddy dragons’ – were bred in captivity at the Chinese Alligator National Nature Reserve in Anhui Province in eastern China, and are manually relocated each year to a national park to ensure the species’ survival.
Keepers at the reserve started moving the alligators last Friday, March 20, and it was expected to take around seven to 10 days to successfully move all 14,000 of them. That’s a heck of a lot of alligators to move manually.
Zhang Song, one of the facility’s directors, said:
At the end of March each year, as the weather warms, hibernating alligators slowly wake up.
We then begin the annual task of relocating alligators from their indoor enclosures to outdoors.
They only start eating in April, and then they enter mating season mid-May or towards the end of the month.
They then begin laying eggs towards the end of June.
The alligators will remain in the national park until the autumn, when they will be moved back into the facility for hibernation again.
Zhang added 400 hatchlings that are too young to go into the wild are currently living in the reserve.
According to the IUCN Red List, only 120 species of Chinese alligators remain in the wild due to habitat loss, and are classified as critically endangered.
The alligators used to live all over China, but now the reptiles are mostly restricted to a 433 square kilometre reserve in the Anhui province of the lower Yangtze river – meaning they’ve lost a devastating 90% of their habit.
However, through conservation efforts the Chinese alligator population has been artificially increased in recent years.
These alligators only grow to around 1.5m, whereas the American alligator can grow up to a whopping 4.6m.
Chinese alligators live mainly on a diet of aquatic invertebrates such as snails and clams. American alligators, however, eat much larger prey – sometimes including humans.
Last year, the remains of a man in Florida – later named as Michael Ford – were discovered face down in a canal on the grounds of the Mosaic phosphate mine in Polk County on June 28. An alligator with a human body part in its mouth was discovered nearby, leading the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to trap and kill the reptile.
According to the Commission, the alligator was nearly 12ft long and weighed 32 stone. An autopsy later revealed a human hand and a human foot inside its stomach.
It was later confirmed, however, that 45-year-old Ford had drowned before the large reptile had started eating his remains.
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