Silver lining for the planet’s most endangered turtle

Posted by Imogen Searra on 11 January 2021

There is a glimmer of hope for the world’s most endangered turtle. A female Yangtze giant soft-shell turtle was captured in Vietnam and she is the second-known of her kind to still exist.

Silver lining for the planet's most endangered turtle

A closer look at the endangered turtle.

Before this discovery, there was only one known male, residing in Suzhou Zoo in China.

The turtle is also known as the Swinhoe’s softshell turtle and Hoan Kiem turtle.

The female was captured in Hanoi in the Dong Mo Lake. A health exam was conducted. She was microchipped and blood samples were taken. Her health was in good condition and her weight of 86kgs was recorded. After this, she was released back into the lake, on the same day.

There was a sighting of another turtle in the lake and researchers hope the animal is a male. A team will be deployed in the Spring when the water is the lowest. If the turtle is a male, there are plans to have the pair mate and reside in either a semi-wild or captive area.

‘This is a very important mission and it needs to be done effectively. We have been seeking advice and consultation from the Hanoi People’s Committee to promulgate guiding documents and to collaborate with international organisations to execute our development and conservation plan of Rafetus swinhoei,’ Nguyen Huy Dang, deputy director of Hanoi Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said in a statement.

‘Hanoi Department of Fisheries has been assigned to continue implementing the Plan #200 from the Hanoi People’s Committee to revive and preserve the Swinhoe’s Softshell Turtle, a rare, precious and endangered species listed in Vietnam’s Red Data Book and the IUCN Red List.’

‘Once we know the sex of the animals in Vietnam, we can make a clear plan on the next steps,’ says Timothy McCormack, program director of the Asian Turtle Program of Indo-Myanmar Conservation, which is collaborating on this project with the Hanoi Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

‘Hopefully, we have a male and a female, in which case breeding and recovery of the species becomes a real possibility. At the same time, our surveys in other areas of Vietnam suggest other animals might still survive in the wild. We need to be looking at bringing these together as part of the broader conservation plan for the species.’

Andrew Walde, Chief Operating Officer of the Turtle Survival Alliance, a technical advisor on this project, said: ‘This is the best news of the year, and quite possibly the last decade, for global turtle conservation. As the most endangered turtle on Earth, a tremendous amount of energy and resources have been dedicated to the preservation of the Swinhoe’s Softshell Turtle. Following the loss of the only known female at the time in 2019, the confirmation of this wild specimen as female is a cause for celebration for all those who have worked tirelessly to see this turtle species survive.’


Picture: WCS Vietnam





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