Hopes for most endangered turtle after discovery of female in Vietnam lake

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The final identified male big Swinhoe’s softshell turtle is not alone on the planet after the discovery of a female of his species in Vietnam.

The female 86kg (13 stone) turtle was discovered in Dong Mo lake, in Hanoi’s Son Tay district, and captured for genetic testing in October.

DNA assessments have nowconfirmed the animal is a Swinhoe’s softshell turtle, (Rafetus swinhoei), the most endangered turtle in the world.

Another turtle estimated to weigh 130kg was sighted in the lake, and conservationists hope that this may very well be one other male.

The solely identified male Swinhoe’s softshell turtle is at Suzhou zoo in China. Scientists goal to make sure that the turtles are given the possibility to breed and save the species from the brink of extinction.

The animal, identified additionally because the Hoan Kiem turtle or Yangtze big softshell turtle, has been pushed to the brink by searching for its meat and eggs, in addition to by destruction of its habitat.

The second Rafetus swinhoei turtle was discovered on Dong Mo Lake.
The second Rafetus swinhoei turtle was found on Dong Mo Lake. Photograph: WCS Vietnam

“This is the best news of the year, and quite possibly the last decade, for global turtle conservation,” mentioned Andrew Walde, on the Turtle Survival Alliance, which suggested the Vietnamese authorities on the conservation project.

Hoang Bich Thuy, nation director for the Wildlife Conservation Society, mentioned: “In a year full of bad news and sadness across the globe, the discovery of this female can offer all some hope that this species will be given another chance to survive.”

Swinhoe’s softshell turtle was given authorized safety in Vietnam in 2013. “[Before] that time, if one was caught, its meat was shared with the whole family, relatives and the neighbourhood,” mentioned Hoang, who added that many of the turtles have been additionally hunted to promote to China. “Its eggs were also collected and soaked in salt, as local people believed turtle salted egg helped cure diarrhoea.”

The conservationists spent weeks wanting for the female turtle in the 1,400-hectare Dong Mo lake. She is one metre lengthy and was captured for a day to permit examination and blood samples to be taken. The staff mentioned she was wholesome, robust – and upon launch eager to be in the lake once more.

In spring 2021 the staff hopes to seize the second, bigger, turtle seen in the identical lake, as that is when the water stage is lowest. There may additionally be a turtle in close by Xuan Khanh lake, as scientists have detected DNA in water samples.

The final identified female earlier than the Vietnam discovery died in April 2019. She had been paired with the male in Suzhou in 2008 however had not produced offspring naturally. Artificial insemination was tried however the female didn’t get better from an anaesthetic, regardless of related anaesthesia procedures beforehand having been carried out safely.

Timothy McCormack, director of the Asian Turtle Program for Indo-Myanmar Conservation, mentioned: “Once we know the sex of the animals in Vietnam, we can make a clear plan on the next steps.”

A report in 2018 concluded that turtles were among the most threatened of all the major vertebrate groups, with greater than 50% of the 356 species threatened or already extinct. The causes are destruction of habitat, searching for meals and conventional drugs, the unlawful pet commerce and air pollution.

The report’s first web page quotes the late WCS herpetologist John Behler: “Turtles saw the great dinosaurs come and go and are now facing their own extinction crisis.”

Freshwater species have been hit hardest by human motion, with average population sizes down by 84% since 1970, due in half to the large thirst of agriculture and the massive quantity of dams.

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