Fishermen in the eastern province of Anhui have found a wild Chinese alligator, which is being called a living fossil, and tracks of another, local authorities said on Monday.
The 20-kilogram reptile was discovered last week in a pond in Wanshou Village, Wuhu County while villagers were fishing. It was believed to have been living in the village for more than 40 years, said experts with the national nature reserve for the Chinese alligators.
The alligator was released to the pond after an investigation, experts said.
Villagers also saw what appeared to be the tracks of another, larger specimen in neighboring Gangshan Village, said Hong Ning, Wuhu Forestry Administration director.
In Wuhu, once a major habitat of the reptile, not one animal has been sighted for nearly 30 years due to human activities, he said.
The Chinese alligator, also known as the Yangtze alligator, was very plentiful more than 230 million years ago, particularly on the eastern seaboard. But now, with a population of no more than 150 in the wild, it is listed one of the world's most endangered creatures.
China has put the Chinese alligator at the top level of its protection list. In 1979, the Chinese Alligator Breeding Research Center was set up in Anhui. Since then, the number of alligators at the center has risen from about 200 to more than 10,000.
All About Chinese alligator
(Xinhua News Agency June 24, 2008)