Chinese Crocodile Lizard

East Asia


Shinisaurus crocodilurus


  • Habitat destruction
  • Uncontrolled hunting

In China’s cool southern forests, this semi-aquatic lizard species can be found spending much of its time on overhanging vegetation and branches or in shallow waters to prey upon worms and insects as well as tadpoles and snails.

Along the top of its muscular tail, the Chinese Crocodile Lizard has two rows of scales which makes it look like a small version of a crocodile’s tail, hence the name.  It is both a powerful swimmer and a quick responder against attacks, taking advantage of its strong tail to either jump into water or to free itself from its predator. It has an unusual habit of staying still for up to several hours at a time, a metabolic pause that this ‘lizard of great sleepiness’ employs to conserve energy especially during cold temperature conditions.

It is now on the brink of extinction due to habitat destruction and illegal collection. Most of its natural ecosystem has already been cleared and converted into agricultural lands or to make way for human settlements and other development activities. It also commands a hefty price tag in local and international black markets which attract exotic pet lovers.