Yangtze giant softshell turtle

No other turtle is rarer than the Yangtze giant softshell turtle

Phuongcacanh

Also known as the Red river turtle or the Swinhoe’s Softshell turtle, it stands as an emblem of the dire conservation status faced by many freshwater species. This turtle is not only one of the largest known freshwater turtle species, with individuals reaching astounding weights of up to 200 kilograms (440 pounds), but it is also the most critically endangered.

Historically, these gentle giants were found in the Yangtze River and other waterways in China, as well as in wetlands and large lakes in Vietnam. Their natural habitats are characterized by abundant aquatic vegetation and a rich supply of food sources. Their omnivorous diet is quite varied and includes fish, crabs, snails, amphibians like frogs, and a selection of aquatic plants such as water hyacinths and green rice leaves.

The current plight of the Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle is a poignant illustration of the biodiversity crisis. The last known female of the species died in 2009, leaving only three known males in existence. This has spurred intensive research efforts aimed at locating any remaining specimens in the wild, particularly potential females that could be critical to the species’ survival.

Conservationists have been scouring the lakes and rivers of China and Vietnam in hopes of identifying additional members of this elusive species. Captive breeding programs are also in place, focusing on these last few individuals who are attempting to breed through artificial insemination. However, the genetic bottleneck is a significant concern, and the future of the species remains highly uncertain.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
China
CR
2017
Possibly Extinct
Vietnam
CR
2017

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No