Last remaining female Yangtze giant softshell turtle dies

Posted by Imogen Searra on 18 April 2019

The world has lost one of the last four known remaining Yangtze giant softshell turtles. On Tuesday, 16 April, the only living female, which was 90 years old, passed away in China’s Suzhou Shangfangshan Forest Zoo. She died during recovery from anesthesia after a fifth attempt to artificially inseminate her. There are now only three known turtles left of this species.

In 2008, the female turtle was moved from Changsha Zoo to Suzhou Zoo in the hopes that she would mate with the 100-year-old male Yangtze giant softshell that lives there. The couple however failed to produce any offspring naturally. Attempts to artificially inseminate the female also failed as none of the eggs hatched.

Chinese zoos and experts from international conservation groups the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) were all involved in the relocation. This turtle species has been driven to near extinction as a result of habitat loss, poaching and being captured for the pet trade.

The other two remaining turtles live in the wild and are both in Vietnam. The first is in Dong Mo Lake, and the other, in Xuan Khanh Lake. While there may be more individuals in the wild, these turtles are particularly elusive.

WCS said in a statement, “The male and female turtles, which have failed to produce offspring naturally since they were brought together in 2008, were determined to be healthy for the procedure, and similar anesthesia procedures had previously been performed without incident”.

The conservation group continued, “sadly, this time the female turtle did not recover normally as she had in the past and she died despite 24 hours of nonstop emergency care. A necropsy will be performed and ovarian tissue has been frozen for potential future work. The male recovered normally from the procedure”.



Image: Twitter @XHscitech

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