We are ringing in the New Year with some good news: the latest known Swinhoe’s softshell turtle – the most endangered tortoise on the planet – is actually not alone on this earth, another one has been found in Vietnam. More excitingly, the former single Swinhoe’s tortoise, male, and a newly discovered female express hope for a near-extinct species.
In October 2020, the woman was found in Dong Mo Lake, Tae District, the son of Hanoi, and was caught for genetic testing, confirming that it was indeed an incredibly rare Swinhoe’s softshell turtle, known as the Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle or Hoan Kiem Turtle.
“In a year full of bad news and sadness around the world, this woman’s discovery may raise some hopes that this species will have another chance to survive,” said Huang Bich Thuy, country director of the Wildlife Conservation Association of Vietnam (WCS), in a statement.
Leading to extinction by hunting its meat and eggs Swinhoe’s latest known tortoise (Rafetus swinhoei) lives in China’s Suzhou Zoo.
In December, the Ha Noi Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, in collaboration with the Indo-Myanmar Conservation (IMC) and WCS’s Asian Turtle Program (ATP) and WCS, not only confirmed the new female turtle but also made two more possible observations, one at Dong Mo Lake and The other is at nearby Juan Khan Lake, possibly carrying up to four members of the species.
“This is probably the last and probably the last decade of the year to conserve turtles worldwide,” said Andrew Wald, chief operating officer of the Turtle Survival Coalition. All those who have worked tirelessly for the survival of this species of tortoise are celebrating the confirmation of this wild specimen as a woman. “
Earlier, there was a major ongoing effort to breed the last known male and female turtles since they first became known in 2008, but after they failed to produce offspring naturally, the female died in 2019 after recovering from anesthesia after an artificial insemination procedure, a process that has been successfully performed many times over in other animal species.
Following this failure, suspicious turtles were spotted on two lakes in Vietnam. Efforts were hampered by an epidemic in 2020, with a lockdown in Vietnam preventing international teams from entering the country. However, the search went ahead in September, and a few weeks after mapping the lake, the female tortoise was captured and taken to a pond where scientists performed a health test, performed a DNA test, and confirmed her sex using ultrasound equipment.
The healthy woman weighed 86 kg (189.5 pounds) and measured 1 m (3.2 feet) in length. Now looking for microchips and samples, researchers described him as “healthy, strong and eager to return to the lake he was released on the same day.” A comparison of the head marks reveals that the tortoise was actually rescued in 2008 and released into the lake. Another search is planned for the spring of 2021 to confirm the species and sex of the other two suspected Swinhoe’s. If they are male and female, they could potentially provide another mating pair, or mate with both Chinese males and newly discovered females – significantly increasing the chances of surviving the extinction of this rare specie