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The Yangtze giant softshell turtle

(Rafetus swinhoei)

The hope for the survival of this species actually died on April 13, 2019. On that day, scientists attempted artificial insemination of the last living female at Suzhou Zoo. Unfortunately, the animal died as a result of the operation. The extinction of the more than one meter tall softshell turtle had been in sight for a long time, because since the year 2000 only a handful of Yangtze giant softshell turtles have been known, and almost all of them lived in human care. But the few animals that are still known also died in the following years, so that in 2007 only two specimens of this species were known. However, these were already 80 or 100 years old and therefore no longer in a particularly reproductive, i.e. fertile age. Still, there was some hope

to breed the remaining turtles and save the species. But it never came to that. In 2008 there was very promising news for Rafetus swinhoei when a free-living specimen was sighted in a lake in Vietnam. In addition, the very well-known and revered softshell turtle female in Vietnam, named Cu Rua (despite her female gender, stands for great-grandfather) lived in a lake in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, for many years. However, Cu Rua was not regarded as a Yangtze giant softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) by some Vietnamese scientists, but as a Hoan Kiem giant softshell turtle (Rafetus leloii), which is due to 


Evidence must be viewed very critically. The Vietnamese scientists spoke out against crossing the Chinese animal with the Vietnamese turtle. So after the death of Cu Rua in 2016 and the last remaining female in 2019, there was no realistic hope of saving the species. But then, on October 22, 2020, scientists caught a previously unknown giant softshell turtle in Dong Mo Lake that could be assigned to Rafetus swinhoei by DNA sequences. Even better, the animal discovered is a female, and environmental DNA has identified at least one other turtle in a nearby lake. So there is hope for the species again. However, the big problem remains that the reasons for the population decline are still red hot. Because in addition to the pollution of their habitat, the turtles themselves are specifically hunted and their eggs used as a remedy against diarrhea. And since the female discovered in October 2020 has been released, not only she but the entire species remains in grave danger.

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