By Lauren Augustine
Today one of our most endangered species, the Chinese alligator, started nesting! Around the back of the Reptile Discovery Center are three outdoor exhibits, one of which is home to the Chinese alligators. Keeper staff added a bale of hay to the exhibit in April to prepare for potential nesting. Although Chinese alligators are critically endangered, their populations in human care are well-managed and growing. The Chinese alligator is managed by a Species Survival Plan (SSP) started by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The plans help to cooperatively manage the captive populations of critically endangered species in order to ensure genetically viable populations.
The Chinese alligator was the first reptile species to be managed by an SSP, and breeding them has become much more successful since 1980. The North American population of Chinese alligators in zoos has done so well that population managers imposed a breeding moratorium from 2002-2009. Today there are only a few recommended matches each year as managers try to balance space and resources with population needs.