Today I begin my journey to southern China where an opportunity of a life-time (at least for us reptile or crocodilian lovers) awaits me in the Changxing Yinjiabian Nature Reserve- an opportunity to observe a “dragon” in its natural habitat. The inspiration for various Chinese dragon folklore, the creature I seek is nothing like that of the dragon’s from House Targaryen. More commonly known as the Chinese Alligator (Alligator sinensis), this “dragon” is a mere 6ft long, with no capability of flying or fire-breathing. Like other crocodilians, the Chinese Alligator is an opportunistic feeder, yet prefers small invertebrates and fish among the slow flowing rivers in which it inhabits when it is not hibernating 6-7 months out of the year. And similar to the rarity of dragons in Westeros or Essos, the Chinese Alligator is similar in its infrequent sightings in the wild. According to the IUCN Red-List, the Chinese Alligator is considered Critically Endangered as a result of habitat destruction, particularly for the construction of dams. Needless to say, it is a crocodilian species in severe need of a conservation management action plan.
Although there has been some re-introductions of Chinese Alligators back into their
natural habitat, local experts say there are probably less than 200 individuals of the species left in the wild. Myself and a few colleagues from the IUCN/SSC-Crocodile Specialist Group (CSG) have been asked to meet up with government officials and local crocodilian researchers and conservationists to re-evaluate and re-vamp the conservation management plan for the Chinese Alligator to ensure it’s survival for future generations to come. (You may be asking, “Who are the CSG? In brief, the conservation status of crocodilians, the laws behind trade of crocodilians, the methods and standards of research, husbandry, farming, hunting…. all are approved and implemented by the expertise of the CSG. For more info, go to their site at: http://www.iucncsg.org).
As a member of the CSG, it is a great honor to have been chosen to participate in this conservation initiative. Not only will this be an unforgettable opportunity, but an amazing career and conservation experience that will assist my efforts in the conservation of crocodilians in Belize, and throughout Central America.
So stay tuned, as I will be posting daily updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and will provide a weekly update on my blog!