After a female Swinhoe’s softshell turtle was discovered in a lake in Vietnam, a hope that the world’s most endangered turtle species may recover was set alight among conservationists in Asia.
Giving a whole new meaning to the words “from the brink of extinction,” there was one such turtle alive in captivity. ‘He’ was thought to be the only one on Earth, and with the discovery of a healthy adult female, a chance for a reptile version of Adam and Eve can commence.
The female weighed a hefty 86 kilos (189 pounds) when she was found in the 1,400-hectare (3,459 acre) Dong Mo Lake in October. After blood tests were taken and a tracking device was fixed to her, they returned her to the lake.
The last remaining male turtle lives in a zoo in Suzhou, China, and after DNA tests confirmed the discovered female was indeed a member of the same species, scientists assured reporters the animals would be given a chance to breed.
Also known as the Hoan Kiem turtle or Yangtze giant softshell, it was driven literally to the brink of brinks by overhunting for its meat and eggs. The individual previously thought to be the last female died in captivity in April 2019 during a breeding program that failed to produce offspring.
A real second chance
Conservationists involved in the confirmed DNA test and capture were understandably ecstatic.
Wildlife Conservation Society Vietnam Country Director Hoang Bich Thuy said: “In a year full of bad news and sadness across the globe, the discovery of this female can offer all some hope that this species will be given another chance to survive.”
“In Vietnam, with the leadership of the government, we are determined to take responsibility to give this species another chance.”
Andrew Walde, Chief Operating Officer of the Turtle Survival Alliance, a technical advisor on this project, said: “This is the best news of the year, and quite possibly the last decade, for global turtle conservation.”
“As the most endangered turtle on Earth, a tremendous amount of energy and resources have been dedicated to the preservation of the Swinhoe’s Softshell Turtle.”
Authorities suspect one other turtle, aside from the female, survives in Dong Mo Lake and perhaps another based on recent sightings in the nearby Xuan Khanh Lake.
The same respective organizations are planning to make a search of the two lakes for the supposed turtles in 2021 when the water level is at its lowest.