In devastating news for conservationists, the last known female of one of the rarest types of giant turtle in the world has passed away.
The female Yangtze giant soft shell turtle is reported to have died on Saturday, April 13 at China’s Suzhou Shangfangshan Forest Zoo.
She had reportedly lived at the zoo since 2008, and died while recovering from anesthesia following an artificial insemination procedure. It is believed she had been over 90 years old at the time of her death.
This was the fifth attempt to artificially inseminate the female, with the hopes that her potential offspring could carry on the species. Sadly, this time she failed to wake up from the anesthetic.
With only three known male Yangtze giant softshell turtles left, this death renders this species of turtle functionally extinct.
The LAST Yangtze giant soft shell turtle female passed away yesterday. Only 3 males are left. This species is now functionally extinct, yet no one is talking about it. Conservation is so important but not destroying habitats is even more important. Humans are trash.
— Tori Mize (@MizeTori) April 17, 2019
As reported by The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), the male and female turtles in Suzhou China, had failed to reproduce naturally since being brought together in 2008. It had been believed the female turtle had been healthy enough to undergo artificial insemination.
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.
So sad, we should take a moment to reflect. The very last female Yangtze giant softshell turtle on Earth died. Yet another species that is doomed to extinction. While we're all eulogising
about Notre Dame, this has gone almost unnoticed. This cannot be rebuilt people😭😭 pic.twitter.com/a2haxJhgig
— Barry S. Brunswick Children's Author (@BarrySBrunswick) April 16, 2019
While mourning artifacts and architecture we forget to mourn those that humans themselves have caused the destruction of. Destruction of habitat and hunting decimated the yangtze soft shell turtle population. And now the only female has passed away. There's only 3 left. pic.twitter.com/np1uGRW9F9
— MaD_HaTTeR's_mikrokosmos (@Going_Cray_Cray) April 16, 2019
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 have stated that they will now work alongside NGO partners – as well as the governments of China and Vietnam – to prevent the complete extinction of the Yangtze giant soft shell turtle.
A female Yangtze giant softshell turtle, believed to be more than 90 years old, died in a zoo in China, leaving behind just three known members of the species. pic.twitter.com/U8JJ6yoJRh
— The Philippine Star (@PhilippineStar) April 17, 2019
The sad death of this beautiful creature illustrates the wider tragedy of entire species of animals being wiped out due to hunting and habitat destruction.
As human beings, it is our responsibility to address these issues before more species are wiped from existence.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.