In a devastating turn of events, one of the last remaining Yangtze giant softshell turtles was found dead on April 21 at Đồng Mô Lake in Hanoi, Vietnam. The incident has been widely reported as the last of the species’ females, dooming the much-loved species to extinction.
According to reports, the turtle’s body measured around 1.56 meters long (5 feet and 1 inch) and weighed 93 kilograms (57 pounds). With the passing of the pig-nosed individual, the species’ total population now only has three males left: two in China and one in Hanoi’s Xuân Khanh Lake.
“Its cause of death has yet to be confirmed,” said Phung Huy Vinh, head of the economic department of Son Tay Town. The death was later confirmed by the head of the Asian Turtle Program for Indo-Myanmar Conservation, who explained that the individual was the last female.
Tim McCormack, director of the Asian Turtle Program for Indo-Myanmar Conservation, expressed his grief, saying, “It’s a real blow. It was a large female that obviously has great reproductive capacity. She could have potentially laid a hundred eggs or more a year.”
Yangtze giant softshell turtles are the largest freshwater turtle species on Earth, and they once thrived throughout northern Vietnam and southern China. However, overhunting and habitat loss have led to their decline. The species holds great cultural significance in Vietnam, with some believing that it was the inspiration for the legend of Kim Quy, a mythical golden turtle god that appears in several Vietnamese legends.
The loss of the last female is a major blow to the conservation of the species. However, it is still possible that other individuals, both male and female, of the elusive species could still exist. Nonetheless, the impact of the loss is felt across the world, with hopes that it will serve as a wake-up call to increase efforts towards conservation and protection of the planet’s species.