The Chinese Crocodile Lizard, scientifically known as Shinisaurus crocodilurus, is a distinctive and rare reptile native to southern China and northern Vietnam. This semi-aquatic lizard is known for its unique appearance, resembling a miniature crocodile due to its elongated body, short legs, and ridged tail. It typically grows to about 16 to 18 inches (40 to 45 cm). The lizard’s skin combines green, brown, and yellow hues, with males often displaying brighter colors and more pronounced patterns than females.


The Chinese Crocodile Lizard inhabits cool, clear, slow-moving streams and forested areas. It is well-adapted to aquatic and terrestrial environments, spending time in the water hunting for fish, tadpoles, and aquatic insects and on land for basking and resting. The species is known for its docile nature and is often inactive, basking on branches or rocks near water. Due to its limited range and specific habitat requirements, the Chinese Crocodile Lizard is vulnerable to habitat destruction and is currently listed as endangered.


The species exhibits interesting behavioral traits, including hibernation during the colder months and a unique ‘shivering’ behavior when stressed. The Chinese Crocodile Lizard is viviparous, giving birth to live young, which is relatively rare among lizards. Conservation efforts for this species are crucial, as its population is threatened by habitat loss, pollution, and illegal capture of the pet trade.



Physical Description:

The Chinese Crocodile Lizard is distinguished by its crocodile-like appearance, featuring a robust, elongated body and a thick, ridged tail. Adults can reach about 16 to 18 inches (40 to 45 cm), with males typically larger and more colorful than females. Their skin is rough and scaly, with a pattern of green, brown, and yellow hues that provide camouflage in their natural habitat. Males often have a more pronounced and vibrant coloration, especially during breeding.

This lizard has short, sturdy legs adapted for climbing and swimming. Its toes are partially webbed, aiding in its swimming ability. The tail of the Chinese Crocodile Lizard is prehensile, assisting in climbing and balance when navigating through branches near water bodies. The overall physical structure of this species reflects its semi-aquatic lifestyle and arboreal habits.

Lifespan: Wild: ~10 years || Captivity: ~12 years

Weight: Male: 1.1-1.4 lbs (500-650 g) || Female: 1.1-1.4 lbs (500-650 g)

Length: Male: 15-17 inches (38-43 cm) || Female: 15-17 inches (38-43 cm)

Top Speed: Unknown


Native Habitat:

The Chinese Crocodile Lizard is indigenous to the mountainous regions of southern China and northern Vietnam, thriving in a unique ecological niche. Its preferred habitat consists of cool, clear, slow-moving or stagnant bodies of water, including streams, ponds, and swamps, all typically nestled within dense forested areas. This semi-aquatic species relies on these aquatic environments for essential aspects of its life, such as hunting and feeding. Additionally, the surrounding land provides crucial basking sites for thermoregulation and safe resting places away from potential aquatic predators.

The specific habitat needs of the Chinese Crocodile Lizard, such as water quality, temperature, and the availability of both aquatic and terrestrial prey, make it particularly sensitive to environmental changes. The quality of the surrounding vegetation is vital, not just for providing shelter and basking spots but also for maintaining the health of the aquatic ecosystem on which they depend. Variations in water temperature and quality can significantly impact their ability to hunt and reproduce, making them an indicator species for the health of their environment. The conservation of this unique habitat, balancing both aquatic and terrestrial elements, is essential for the survival of this endangered species.

Climate Zones:
Biogeographical Realms:

Diet & Feeding Habits:

The Chinese Crocodile Lizard is carnivorous, feeding on a diet that includes small fish, tadpoles, aquatic insects, and occasionally small terrestrial prey. In the wild, it hunts by waiting motionlessly near water, striking quickly to catch its prey. Its semi-aquatic nature allows it to hunt effectively on land and water.

In captivity, the diet of the Chinese Crocodile Lizard should include a variety of live prey, such as small fish, insects, and appropriate-sized amphibians. Ensuring a balanced and natural diet is crucial for the health and longevity of captive individuals. The feeding habits of this species in its natural habitat underline its role as a predator in the aquatic and riparian ecosystems.

Mating Behavior:

Mating Description:

The Chinese Crocodile Lizard is viviparous, giving birth to live young rather than laying eggs. The mating season typically occurs in late spring or early summer. During this time, males may become more territorial and exhibit bright coloration to attract females. Courtship involves physical displays and chasing behaviors.

After mating, the female carries the developing young inside her body, giving birth to a small number of offspring after a gestation period of several months. The live birth adaptation is advantageous in their cool, aquatic habitats, where laying eggs might be challenging due to temperature and environmental conditions. Protecting the breeding habitats of the Chinese Crocodile Lizard is essential for conserving the species.

Reproduction Season:

Birth Type:

Pregnancy Duration:

~270 days

Female Name:


Male Name:


Baby Name:


Social Structure Description:

The Chinese Crocodile Lizard is a solitary animal, with individuals typically interacting only during the breeding season. They are territorial, especially males, who may exhibit aggressive behaviors to defend their territory and attract mates. Understanding the social behavior of the Chinese Crocodile Lizard is important for its conservation and management, particularly in captive settings where interactions with other individuals may occur.

In the wild, their solitary nature is reflected in their hunting and basking habits, with each individual occupying its territory near water sources. Care must be taken in captivity to provide adequate space and environmental enrichment to mimic their natural lifestyle and reduce stress. Studying their social behavior in wild and captive settings can provide insights into their ecological needs and natural behaviors.


Conservation Status:
Population Trend:


Wild: Unknown || Captivity: Unknown


The Chinese Crocodile Lizard is classified as endangered, with a decreasing trend in its wild population. The primary threats to this species include habitat destruction due to logging, pollution, and agricultural expansion. The limited range and fragmented population make it vulnerable to environmental changes and human activities. Captive breeding programs and habitat conservation efforts are crucial for the survival of this species.

The population of the Chinese Crocodile Lizard in the wild is not well-documented, complicating conservation efforts. Research and monitoring are needed to better understand the population dynamics and to develop effective conservation strategies. Protection of its natural habitat, along with sustainable land use practices, are essential for the preservation of this unique reptile.

Population Threats:

The main threats to the Chinese Crocodile Lizard include habitat loss and degradation, primarily due to deforestation, pollution, and agricultural development. These activities directly impact the quality and availability of its natural habitats. Illegal capture for the pet trade and traditional medicine also poses a threat, leading to declining numbers. Climate change is an emerging concern, potentially affecting the ecosystems where the Chinese Crocodile Lizard resides.

Efforts to address these threats must include habitat conservation and restoration, strict enforcement of wildlife protection laws, and community engagement. Mitigating the impact of climate change and controlling illegal trade are also important aspects of conservation efforts. Public education and awareness campaigns are essential to increase support for conservation initiatives and reduce human-induced pressures on the species’ habitats.

Conservation Efforts:

The Chinese Crocodile Lizard’s conservation efforts focus on habitat protection and restoration, particularly of its aquatic and forested habitats. This includes establishing protected areas, implementing sustainable land and water management practices, and restoring degraded ecosystems. Captive breeding programs are crucial in increasing the population and providing individuals for reintroduction into the wild. Community-based conservation initiatives are also important, involving local communities in protecting and monitoring the lizard’s habitat.

Educational programs and awareness campaigns are vital for raising public understanding of the importance of the Chinese Crocodile Lizard and the threats it faces. Research on its ecology, behavior, and threats is essential for informing conservation strategies. International collaboration is important for addressing the challenges faced by this species, given its limited distribution across international borders. A combination of habitat conservation, responsible land and water management, and public engagement is key to successfully conserving the Chinese Crocodile Lizard.

Additional Resources:

Fun Facts

  • The Chinese Crocodile Lizard’s unique appearance and resemblance to a miniature crocodile contribute to its name.
  • They exhibit a rare ‘shivering’ behavior, which is believed to be a stress response.
  • The species is one of the few viviparous lizards that give birth to live young.
  • Their semi-aquatic nature allows them to hunt both in water and on land.
  • The Chinese Crocodile Lizard can enter a state of hibernation during colder months.
  • In traditional Chinese culture, the lizard is sometimes called the “lizard of great sleepiness” due to its often inactive and docile behavior.
  • Conservation efforts for the species are crucial, as its habitat is rapidly diminishing due to human activities.
  • The Chinese Crocodile Lizard is a flagship species for conserving freshwater and forest habitats in southern China and northern Vietnam.
  • Their presence in the ecosystem helps control fish, tadpoles, and aquatic insect populations.
  • Community involvement and education are key to effective conservation strategies for this endangered species.