Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle Nears Extinction After Death of Last Known Female
A Yangtze giant softshell turtle, one of the world’s rarest reptiles, recently died in Vietnam, pushing its species closer to extinction.
The turtle, the last known female of the species, was discovered floating in Hanoi’s Dong Mo Lake on Sunday by a turtle conservation nonprofit member, according to Phung Huy Vinh, head of the economic department of Son Tay Town. The cause of death is still undetermined, Vinh informed VN Express.
First spotted in the lake in 2020, the rare reptile measured over 5 feet in length and weighed 205 pounds. Tim McCormack, director of the Asian Turtle Program for Indo-Myanmar Conservation, told TIME, “It’s a real blow. It was a large female that obviously has great reproductive capacity. She could have potentially laid a hundred eggs or more a year.”
Only two known Yangtzes remain, both males: one in China’s Suzhou Zoo and another in Hanoi’s Xuân Khanh Lake. The species, also called Hoàn Kiếm turtles, has been declining due to illegal turtle hunting and increasing pollution levels.
Biologist Forrest Galante expressed his disbelief on Facebook, stating, “It’s just devastating. Humans must learn from this and try to do better as docents of our planet.”
Giant Softshell Turtle Facing Extinction After Last Known Female Dies https://t.co/TacePU8IZO
— People (@people) April 29, 2024
In the past, researchers from Vietnam and China attempted artificial insemination on a female Yangtze unsuccessfully, with the surviving turtle dying in 2019 under general anesthesia. However, researchers remain hopeful about finding another Yangtze in Dong Mo.
Legend has it that the creature gifted a sword to Emperor Lê Lợi, helping him repel Chinese occupiers. The turtle then reappeared in a Hanoi lake to retrieve the weapon after the enemies’ defeat.
The reptile is considered sacred by many and even worshiped by some. When one of its species died in 2016, its remains were preserved and displayed in Hanoi’s Ngoc Son temple.