Over 80 Chinese alligators released in Anhui reserve

By Yan Dongjie | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-06-02 11:18
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Eighty-four captive-bred Chinese alligators at the Anhui Chinese Alligator National Nature Reserve were released into the wild at the same time in five areas of the reserve on Thursday, marking the launch of this year's alligator release season.

This year marks the end of a five-year plan for the release of Chinese alligators. This is the 19th release of Chinese alligators to the wild in the history of the reserve, and the total number of released captive-bred Chinese alligators in Anhui will reach 1,608 this month.

In the beginning of 21st century, the number of wild Chinese alligators was extremely low. Field surveys showed that there were perhaps fewer than 200 of them, reaching the critically endangered status.

In 2001, the State Forestry Administration launched the "Chinese Alligator Protection and Release Project", which aimed to release captive-bred Chinese alligators into the wild in an effort to gradually increase the population of wild Chinese alligators.

From 2003 to 2018, the alligator reserve carried out 14 experimental re-homing and released 108 alligators. In 2019, based on previous experimental experience, a five-year scale release plan of 1,500 alligators was launched. From 2019 to 2022, 1,300 artificially bred Chinese alligators were continuously released.

Chinese alligator is a critically endangered and first-class national protected wild animal in China. It is mainly found in Jingxian, Nanxi, Guangde, Nanning counties and Xuanzhou district of Xuanxeng city in southeast Anhui province.

Sun Siqing, a researcher with the Anhui Chinese Alligator National Nature Reserve Administration, said: "In recent years, the number of wild Chinese alligators has been increasing, and their distribution is gradually expanding. The vast majority of released Chinese alligators have adapted to the wild environment and achieved natural breeding."

He said that during a field survey in 2021, Chinese alligators in the wild laid 14 litters of 320 eggs and hatched 137 hatchlings. Last year, they were found to have laid 602 eggs in 26 litters, producing 372 hatchlings.

Zhou Yongkang, a researcher with the administration, said the Chinese alligators sent to each release site are arranged according to a certain ratio of male to female, and meet the conditions of good health, distant relatives and rich genetic diversity, so as to ensure natural breeding and gene exchange of the released population.

The reserve has recorded detailed genetic information for each released alligator, equipped it with a solar-powered GPS device, and established a database of wild released populations.

In the future, the reserve will continue to focus on the protection of the existing wild population and the restoration of the habitat, so as to strengthen the foundation for the recovery of the Chinese alligator's wild population.

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