Asia-Pacific

Rare female turtle dies in China, leaving behind only three others

Xiangxiang, the last known Yangtze giant softshell turtle, died at Suzhou Zoo on the weekend. Source: Suzhou Daily

China's last female Yangtze giant softshell turtle has died. Now, only three remain in the world.

A female member of the world's rarest turtle species has died at a zoo in southern China.

The Yangtze giant softshell turtle was one of only four believed to be left in the world.

The state-run People's Daily reported the female turtle was 90-years-old and lived in Suzhou Zoo with a male.

Animal Experts Operate Artificial Insemination For Rafetus Swinhoei
Workers carry a female Rafetus swinhoei (also known as Yangtze giant soft shell turtle) to receive artificial insemination at Suzhou Zoo in 2015.
Visual China Group

The zoo tried unsuccessfully for several years to get the pair to mate and reproduce naturally. It will now conduct an autopsy to determine what caused the animal's death, the newspaper reported.

Conservations say there are now only two other known members of the species left, both living in the wild in Vietnam and of unknown gender.

Suzhou authorities confirmed the female turtle died on Saturday afternoon.

The city's government said experts were collecting the turtle's ovarian tissue for future research.

Animal Experts Operate Artificial Insemination For Rafetus Swinhoei
Workers catch one female Rafetus swinhoei (also known as Yangtze giant softshell turtle) to receive artificial insemination at Suzhou Zoo in 2015.
Visual China Group

The Yangtze giant softshell turtle is the largest freshwater turtle in the world, growing to 100cm long and weighing up to 100kg.

The turtle's main habitat was the Yangtze River and other inland China waterways. 

But aquatic life in China's rivers has suffered severely from centuries of hunting and, more recently, decades of pollution, shipping traffic and ecological disruption wrought by hydroelectric dams.

 

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