World Rejoices after the Discovery of a Female of the Most Endangered Turtle

Most of the marine species are either “nearly threatened” or “critically endangered” according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, many of which are turtles. The Yangtze giant softshell turtle, also known as Swinhoe’s softshell turtle, is an extremely rare species of turtle. The last known female Swinhoe’s softshell turtle died in April 2019, leaving the last known male without a mate and sealed the fate of the species for extinction.

However, in a positive turn of events, the discovery of a wild female member in Vietnam in October 2020, has offered a glimmer of hope for the survival of the species. The female turtle, weighing 86 kg, was found in Dong Mo Lake, in Hanoi’s Son Tay district, and was captured for genetic testing.

Discovery of a female of Swinhoe’s softshell turtle, the most endangered turtle

Discovery of a female of Swinhoe’s softshell turtle, the most endangered turtle offers hope for the survival of the species | Image: WCS Vietnam

DNA tests have confirmed that the animal is an individual of Swinhoe’s softshell turtle species, the most endangered turtle on the planet. Another turtle estimated to weigh about 130 kg was also sighted in the lake, and conservationists hope this turtle to be another male of Swinhoe’s softshell turtle.

Currently, the only known male of the critically scarce species is at Suzhou zoo in China. Scientists aim to ensure that the turtles are given the chance to breed and save the species from oblivion. In the past, the animal had been hunted for its meat and eggs, which led it to the brink of extinction along with the destruction of its habitat.

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According to Hoang Bich Thuy, country director for the Wildlife Conservation Society, the discovery comes as a ray of hope for the future of the species. He said that the turtle was given legal protection in Vietnam in 2013.

[Before] that time, if one was caught, its meat was shared with the whole family, relatives, and the neighborhood. Its eggs were also collected and soaked in salt, as local people believed turtle salted egg helped cure diarrhea.

Reportedly, the conservationists spent weeks searching for the female turtle in the 1,400-hectare lake. The one-meter long turtle was captured for a day to examine the blood samples. It was healthy, strong, and upon release, quite excited to go back into the water. In spring 2021, the team hopes to examine the second turtle seen in the same lake. There could be another turtle in nearly Xuan Khanh Lake, as scientists have detected DNA in water samples.

A 2018 report had concluded that turtles were among the most threatened of all the major vertebrate groups, with over 50 percent of the 356 species threatened or already extinct. Major factors threatening marine species are plastic pollution, the destruction of habitat, hunting for food and traditional medicine, the illegal pet trade, and pollution.

While the discovery of a female of the most endangered turtle species has brought on some hope for the survival of the species, it can only be hoped that humankind will actually put in some real and tangible efforts to prevent the extinction of this and other such endangered species.

Via: The Guardian 

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