One of three of the world’s rarest surviving turtles has been found dead in the wild, it has emerged.
The critically endangered Swinhoe’s Softshell turtle was reportedly found dead at Dong Mo Lake, in the town of Son Tay, near Hanoi, in Vietnam, on Sunday, 23rd April.
The female turtle – which reportedly weighed nearly 100 kilogrammes (220 lbs) – was said to be one of only three of the species left alive.
The freshwater reptile had been ID-chipped in 2020 before being released into the lake, according to local media.
Its death was confirmed on 24th April.
Phung Huy Vinh, the head of the economic department of Son Tay, said the turtle’s body had been found by a member of the IMC turtle protection NGO, which oversees a conservation project to protect the species in Vietnam.
Vinh said: “Its cause of death has yet to be confirmed.”
The turtle’s body – which measured 1.56 metres (5.11 feet) long – is undergoing an autopsy to establish its age and cause of death.
Before its death, there were reportedly two Swinhoe’s Softshell turtles in China and two more in Vietnam, but only three had been officially confirmed.
The Asian Turtle Program, a non-profit, said on Monday, 24th April: “Death of the Dong Mo Turtle – An important female of the world’s rarest turtle is lost in Vietnam.
“Many news reports in Vietnam are covering the death of a large Swinhoe’s Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) from Dong Mo Lake, Hanoi.
“We are all devastated to confirm that this is sadly true.
“We have spent over 17 years working to protect this turtle and its habitat.
“We will be able to provide a more detailed update shortly, but we have to wait for the official release of information from our Government and other NGO partners.”
The Swinhoe’s Softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei), also known as the Yangtze giant softshell turtle, is thought to be the largest living freshwater turtle in the world.
It is endemic to northern Vietnam and eastern and southern China, and is primarily threatened by habitat loss and trafficking, as well as being hunted for food and for use in alternative medicine.
The species was first recorded in Western science in 1873 by John Edward Gray, a turtle expert from the British Museum, who described a specimen that had been sent to him from Shanghai by the English biologist Robert Swinhoe.
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