Chinese Alligators

Chinese alligator

Alligator sinensis

At the Detroit Zoo
The Chinese alligator can be found inside the Holden Reptile Conservation Center, located near the middle of the Detroit Zoo. There, visitors can learn about the more than 50 different species (and approximately 120+ individuals) of reptiles at the Zoo, approximately 52 percent of which are considered threatened or endangered in the wild.

Chinese alligators are dark green to yellowish gray with black spotting on their lower jaws.  They are much smaller than their American counterpart, with slightly upturned and more tapered snouts as well as bony plates on their upper eyelids. Their long, thick tail is their primary source of force while moving through the water.  The Chinese alligators also have bony plates, or osteoderms, covering their backs and undersides of their bodies to act as armor.  Juveniles appear very similar to adults, but have distinctive yellow bands on their bodies which fade as they mature.

Fun Facts

  • Some writers believe that the mythical Chinese dragons were, in reality, the Chinese alligators.