OKC ZOO WELCOMES CRITICALLY ENDANGERED CHINESE ALLIGATOR HATCHLINGS
March 22, 2021
The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is pleased to announce the arrival of three six-month-old Chinese alligator siblings who hatched in September 2020 at Sedgewick County Zoo in Wichita, Kansas. This exciting addition marks the first time the Zoo’s animal family has included Chinese alligators in its history. The Zoo is now home to both of the world’s only two alligator species - Chinese alligators and American alligators. With only 120 individual Chinese alligators left in the wild, the Zoo joins its Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) partners to preserve the species as part of the Chinese Alligator Species Survival Plan® (SSP) and reintroduction program.
“We’re proud to commit to this collaborative conservation effort and do our part to help revitalize the declining population of Chinese alligators in their native habitat,” said the Zoo’s Assistant Curator of Herpetology, Seamus Ehrhard. “By participating in this SSP program, we have the opportunity to make a powerful impact on Chinese alligator conservation, while raising public awareness for this lesser-known crocodilian species.”
The Chinese alligator, unlike the abundant American alligator, is critically endangered. AZA’s SSP and reintroduction programs were created to increase wild populations, while ensuring genetic diversity. In 2003, the first Chinese alligators bred in human care were successfully reintroduced into the wild - a promising testament to the critical role AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums have in conserving wildlife. Listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Chinese alligators are threatened by habitat loss. The species is confined to a small area of the Yangtze River basin in Eastern China.
At this time, the Zoo will act as a housing facility for the Chinese alligator hatchlings with a goal of participating in the Chinese alligator breeding program in the future. The young alligator ambassadors will live at the Zoo for a few years before being paired with a mate at another AZA organization. The hatchlings are now on public view at the Zoo’s Underground habitat in the Children’s Zoo, next to the Zoo’s alligator snapping turtle hatchlings.
Chinese alligators are relatively small compared to American alligators – reaching an average length of five feet. The species can also be distinguished by its upturned snout and robust head. Calm and reserved by nature, Chinese alligators are known as highly intelligent and inquisitive creatures. The local name for the species is Yow-Lung or T’o, meaning “dragon.”
We hope to see you later alligator! The OKC Zoo invites you to meet its newest additions at their habitat in the Children’s Zoo. The Oklahoma City Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Advance tickets are required for all guests and ZOOfriends members and can be purchased at http://www.okczoo.org/tickets. Zoo tickets are limited each day to ensure safe social distancing among guests. Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the OKC Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Regular admission is $12 for adults and $9 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. Stay up-to-date with the Zoo on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, and by visiting Our Stories. Zoo fans can support the OKC Zoo by becoming a member. Memberships can be purchased at ZOOfriends.org or any place admission is sold in the Zoo’s Entry Plaza during regular business hours. To learn more about this event and Zoo other happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit www.okczoo.org.