China turtle death: One of last four known Yangtze giant softshells dies

  • Published
The female Yangtze giant softshell turtle in her natural environment of muddy water at the zoo in 2015Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The Yangtze giant softshell turtles thrive in muddy water and can weigh up to 90 kg (200 pounds)

One of the world's rarest turtles, a Yangtze giant softshell, has died in China, leaving just three known survivors of the species.

The female turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) died in Suzhou zoo in southern China.

Experts had tried to artificially inseminate the creature, which was over 90 years old, for a fifth time shortly before she died.

The species has suffered from hunting, overfishing and the destruction of its habitat.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Several attempts at artificial insemination had taken place in the hope of continuing the species, but they all failed

One male, estimated to be more than 100 years old, is left in the Chinese zoo while two other turtles live in the wild in Vietnam. The elusive nature of the turtle means it has been difficult to identify the gender of the pair.

Local staff and international experts had attempted to artificially inseminate the female 24 hours before she died on Saturday afternoon.

They said there were no complications from the operation and she had been in fine health after the procedure, but deteriorated the next day.

The cause of her death is being investigated and the turtle's ovarian tissue was collected for future research.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The male Yangtze giant softshell is now the only one of its species left in captivity