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Tuesday, 17 April, 2001, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
China to export live alligators
Alligator
Alligators are an endangered species worldwide
By the BBC's Clare Arthurs

China says it will begin commercial exports of alligators following the success of a farming programme which has brought the reptile back from the verge of extinction.

State media reports say alligator numbers are up to about 9,000, compared to about 200 a decade ago.

But the alligator is an endangered species and there is opposition to the trade.

Overseas wildlife groups say that while China has taken conservation of their numbers quite seriously, little has been done to preserve the alligators' natural habitat.

The Chinese alligator is known locally as the 'muddy dragon', or Tu Long, and is one of the world's most threatened species.

The muddy dragon is believed to have branched off from another species of alligator found in America, about 20 million years ago.

Under threat

China's alligators are smaller and eat fish and snails. As well as habitat loss, the reptiles are also at risk from hunting and the effect of pesticides.


Few remain in the wild. Most are to be found in the Chinese province of Anhui, a rice-farming area which is heavily populated.

The main Chinese breeding programme is near Xuancheng city in Anhui province, a site registered with the United Nations convention on trade in endangered species.

The sanctuary is partly funded by tourist visits, including the purchase of live ducklings for feeding, and the sale of the meat of alligators which die naturally to specially licensed restaurants.

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10 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
Vanishing reptiles prompt concern
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