It’s always a little devastating to learn that another species as gone extinct, but it happens more often than most people might realize.
In 2020 alone, 10 different animals went extinct, including a shark and 2 types of bats. An additional 5 plant species went extinct, among those–a variety of agave.
So it was particularly inspiring to learn that Swinhoe’s soft-shelled turtle might actually have a shot at survival.
Swinhoe’s softshell turtles can weigh more than 370 pounds, be more than 6-feet long and live for over 100 years. They have a new hope for escaping extinction. https://t.co/VVondCIBAy
— NYT Science (@NYTScience) January 31, 2021
The turtle species, alternately called the Yangtze giant softshell turtle or the Hoan Kiem turtle, like many species before them, have been driven to the brink of extinction by hunting and habitat loss.
Up until two years ago, the last known male and female lived at Suzhou Zoo in China.
According to the Indo-Asian News Service:
“They had been together since 2008 but never produced offspring naturally, so conservationists attempted to artificially inseminate the female in 2019. Both turtles were deemed healthy for the procedure, but the female died of complications, bringing breeding efforts to a screeching halt.”
Since then, the lone turtle in captivity was believed to be the last.
Until recently, that is.
At a lake in Vietnam, researchers recently discovered another female turtle.
Researchers caught the turtle, which weighed nearly 200 pounds, took a DNA sample, and tagged her with a microchip, but at the time, they weren’t certain she was female.
Subsequent blood work confirmed the turtle’s sex, leading to the possibility of breeding with the turtle in captivity–and the possible restoration of the species.
Not only that, but there are a potential two additional turtles in the same lake, which brings even greater hope.
As the Gwinnett Daily Post reports from the press release, Hoang Bich Thuy, the country director for the Wildlife Conservation Society Vietnam, says…
“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,”.
And Andrew Walde, the C.O.O. of the Turtle Survival Alliance, adds:
“This is the best news of the year, and quite possibly the last decade, for global turtle conservation.”
In other words, it’s a pretty big deal and herpetologists are geeking out.
What a nice thing to come out of an otherwise grim year. Did it give you the warm fuzzies?
Let us know in the comments.