Zoo Animals

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 70 different species (and approximately 150 individuals) of reptiles at the Zoo, approximately 45 percent of which are considered threatened or endangered in the wild.

The Chinese alligator is dark green to yellowish gray with black spotting on the lower jaw.  It is much smaller than its American counterpart, with a slightly upturned and more tapered snout as well as bony plates on its upper eyelids.   Its long, thick tail is its primary source of force while moving through the water.  The Chinese alligator also has bony plates, or osteoderms, covering its back and underside of the body 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 dragon was, in reality, the Chinese alligator.