Last female of rare Yangtze giant softshell turtles dies in China
The only known female member of one of the world’s rarest turtle species has died at a zoo in southern China, officials said on Sunday.
The animal was one of four Yangtze giant softshell turtles known to be remaining in the world. The Suzhou zoo, where the female turtle lived since 2008 when she was moved from the Changsha Ecological Zoo, also houses a male Yangtze giant softshell turtle.
She was moved to mate with the male turtle, who is reportedly over 100 years old, a zoo employee told China’s Global Times on condition of anonymity.
The other two turtles live in Vietnam, but their genders are unknown.
The turtle died on Saturday afternoon, the Suzhou city government said in a statement, citing the zoo. It said experts have already used technology to collect the turtle’s ovarian tissue for future research.
The state-run People’s Daily reported that the turtle was over 90 years old and had undergone a fifth attempt at artificial insemination shortly before she died.
A medical examination found the turtle to be in good health prior to the procedure, the People’s Daily said, and the artificial insemination appeared to go smoothly.
But the turtle died the following day.
The Rafetus swinhoei, more popularly known as Yangtze giant softshell turtles, originated in China, making their homes in the Yangtze River and Taihu Lake, according to the People’s Daily.
The species is often referred to as the most endangered turtle in the world.
Loss of habitat and poaching are among the reasons for the decline of the species’ population, according to a report by Mongabay, a conservation and environmental science news service.
Suzhou authorities said Chinese and foreign experts are investigating the cause of the turtle’s death. “The cause of death... will be announced later by the China Wildlife Conservation Association,” a Suzhou zoo employee told Global Times.
(Associated Press contributed to this story)