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The Last Female Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle Has Just Passed Away

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The last known female Yangtze giant soft shell turtle has passed away on Saturday the 13th of April at China’s Suzhou Shangfangshan Forest Zoo while recovering from anesthesia, following an AI procedure.

She was believed to be over 90 years old at the time of her death.

Hoping her potential offspring would carry on the species, this was the 5th attempt at artificially inseminating her, but sadly she failed to wake from the anesthetic.

There are only three known males remaining, making the species functionally extinct.

Since being brought together in 2008, the male and female turtles brought to Suzhou China have failed to reproduce as reported by  The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) although she was believed healthy enough to undergo AI.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) made the following statement in a press release:

The male and female turtles, which have failed to produce offspring naturally since they were brought together in 2008, were determined to be healthy for the procedure, and similar anesthesia procedures had previously been performed without incident.

Sadly, this time the female turtle did not recover normally as she had in the past and she died despite 24 hours of nonstop emergency care.

A necropsy will be performed and ovarian tissue has been frozen for potential future work. The male recovered normally from the procedure. This was the fifth attempt by a team of international experts at artificial insemination with these two turtles since 2015.

The WCS have expressed some hope that this species can still continue, with two Yangtze giant soft shell turtles of unknown genders reported to be still living in the wild, in separate lakes:

Scientists hope that this species can still be saved by working in conjunction with partners in China and with the Vietnamese government where two individuals of this turtle species, whose sex has not been determined, are known to be in the wild.

It is tragic that the only known female of this species has died but the real tragedy here is that this species has been decimated to near extinction by hunting and habitat destruction. We applaud the heroic efforts by all the partners in China and Vietnam to save this species which is environmentally and culturally significant.

The WCS has further stated that they will be working closely alongside their NGO partners, along with the governments of China and Vietnam, to hopefully completely prevent the extinction of the Yangtze giant soft shell turtle.

The sad death of this historic creature is a clear illustration of the wider scale of tragedy when an entire species gets wiped out due to habitat destruction and hunting.

It’s up to us as human beings to address these issues before they take on such epic proportions, leaving a species lost forever.

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