The critically endangered Yangtze giant softshell turtle, the largest freshwater turtle in the world, is now one step closer to extinction as the last known female has died. The turtle was found dead in the Dong Mo Lake in Hanoi, Vietnam, where she had been microchipped and released into the wild three years ago. The species is listed as critically endangered on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The female turtle, which weighed 93 kg (205lbs) and was 1.56m (5ft 1ins) long, was discovered by members of a conservation group. Her body is currently being analysed to determine the cause of death. The reptile may have died several days before she was found.
There are now only four remaining Yangtze giant softshell turtles left in the world. One is still in Dong Mo Lake, another is in Xuan Khanh Lake, and the other two are in China. One of the surviving males has impotence, and their numbers have dwindled due to illegal hunting and habitat destruction.
The species is considered “functionally extinct without human intervention,” according to Zimbabwean-American researcher Forrest Galante. He suggested that they could potentially be saved from extinction with the help of cloning technology.
Since 2008, scientists have attempted to artificially inseminate female Yangtze turtles without success. The penultimate female of the species died in 2019 after a failed artificial insemination attempt.
The Hanoi People’s Committee has established a conservation plan for the turtles from 2021 to 2025. The loss of the last known female is a significant blow to the survival of the species. Urgent action is needed to prevent the Yangtze giant softshell turtle from becoming extinct.