Here's a love story for the ages: a female Swinhoe’s softshell turtle has been discovered in the placid waters of Dong Mo lake, Vietnam. She joins only one other known living Swinhoe’s softshell turtle — a male located at the Suzhou zoo in China. Together, these two turtles could bring their species back from the brink of extinction.
The Swinhoe’s softshell turtle, also known as the Hoan Kiem turtle or Yangtze giant softshell turtle, is the world's largest freshwater turtle and the most endangered. The species has been all but wiped out due to the destruction of its natural habitat and hunting for meat and eggs. The discovery of a female Swinhoe’s softshell is a huge breakthrough for the species and turtle conservation more generally.
“This is the best news of the year, and quite possibly the last decade, for global turtle conservation,” Chief Operating Officer of the Turtle Survival Alliance, Andrew Walde, said in a statement.
Conservationists captured the female Swinhoe’s softshell turtle in October to examine her and take blood samples before releasing her back into the lake. The results of DNA tests have confirmed that the turtle is indeed a Swinhoe’s softshell.
Now, scientists they are directing their attention to another turtle that has been spotted in the lake which they believe may be a male. They are also investigating a turtle living in the nearby Xuan Khanh lake after the water tested positive for Swinhoe’s softshell DNA.
Turtles are among the most threatened species on the planet. The discovery of a Swinhoe’s softshell turtle provides some hope for the survival of these majestic creatures.
"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," Hoang Bich Thuy, Vietnam's director for the Wildlife Conservation Society, said.