No turtle is more critically endangered than the Yangtze giant softshell turtle – with sad news that the last known (at the time) female of the species died on April 13, 2019, only three individuals were thought to exist; two in Vietnam and one at the Suzhou Zoo in China, believed to be more than 100 years old. In December, 2020 the species got some much needed good news: genetic results confirmed that a turtle captured in October 2020 in Viet Nam is definitively a female Rafetus swinhoei. WCS is working with the Vietnamese government and other conservationists to capture and determine the sex of two other turtles thought to exist in Dong Mo and Xuan Khanh Lakes in Vietnam. Ultimately, the aim is to ensure at least one male and female are given a chance to breed to return this species from the brink of extinction.
Wildlife Conservationists Remain Steadfast In Efforts To Prevent Extinction of the Giant Yangtze Soft Shell Turtle
Whilst field surveys are ongoing of the Yangtze and other river systems for any remaining wild turtles, no additional wild turtles have been confirmed. WCS has been developing first-of-a-kind hand-held and field-friendly molecular test kit to detect environmental DNA (eDNA) from the Yangtze giant softshell turtle to search for potentially undiscovered animals that may still exist and have evaded detection by traditional methods. Our Yangtze giant softshell turtle eDNA test and methodologies have now been developed and we have shown our methodology can detect the Yangtze giant softshell turtle, as well as a variety of other turtle species we have targeted, and field-validation is now in progress.
Thumbnail softshell turtle image credit: PCalle, WCS
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