World’s Rarest Giant Turtle Loses Last Known Female, All But Guaranteeing Extinction
The Yangtze giant softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) is considered the most critically endangered turtle in the world, with only four known individuals left on Earth. On Saturday (April 13), that population fell to three, as the species’ last known female died in a zoo in Suzhou, China.
The captive turtle was more than 90 years old and died shortly after an attempt to artificially inseminate her. No complications from the insemination procedure (which was the turtle’s fifth) were reported, and the cause of death is being investigated.
The rare turtle is survived by one male, who also lives in the Suzhou Zoo and is believed to be about 100 years old. Scientists had been trying to breed the pair for years, but were unsuccessful due, in part, to the male’s damaged penis.
The world’s final two known R. swinhoei turtles live in separate ponds in Vietnam. Their genders are unknown. The species used to be widespread in the fresh waters of China and Vietnam, but have dwindled to near-extinction due to hunting and habitat loss.