Grahame WEBB

Crocodile researcher and author

About This Project

The Chinese or Yangtze River Alligator is found nowhere else in the world. It is reasonably small, seldom exceeding two metres in length and 60 kilograms in body weight.


In northern Australia, I had been researching Australian Freshwater Crocodiles. ‘Freshies’ are mostly small, with similar dimensions to Chinese Alligators.


Chinese Alligators are considered critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and are listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). When China proposed reopening international trade in Chinese Alligators in 1991, it raised questions within international wildlife conservation circles.


On behalf of the IUCN Crocodile Specialist Group (CSG), I flew to Beijing in January 1992. It was bitterly cold and quite a change from Darwin’s hot, humid wet season. There seemed few home comforts, of the type I was used to, but like people in northern Australia, the men and women were strong, resilient, humorous and proud.


China had recognised the impending extinction of their alligators, and to counter it, declared a large Chinese Alligator reserve, within which they built the Anhui Research Centre of Chinese Alligator Reproduction (ARCCAR).


China’s proposal was to register ARCCAR as a commercial, captive-breeding centre, under CITES. This would allow them to sell some of the thousands of animals they were producing annually. It was reasonable, justified and well-grounded in science. I helped refine the proposal, and helped win support for it at the 1992 Kyoto CITES meeting.


Today, Australia continues to play a role in the development of successive management programs for Chinese Alligators. Wild populations are now being rebuilt. We have helped China in some of the complex and often sensitive biopolitical battles over traditional and culturally important uses of wildlife.


Grahame Webb is Managing Director of Wildlife Management International Pty. Limited and Chair of the IUCN-SSC Crocodile Specialist Group.

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