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 last known female Giant Yangtze Soft Shell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) died on Saturday, April 13, 2019, during recovery from anesthesia after an artificial insemination procedure in Suzhou, China.
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.
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.
WCS will continue to work with NGO partners and the Chinese and Vietnamese governments to prevent the extinction of the Giant Yangtze Soft Shell Turtle.