Quantcast

Last Known Female of Endangered Turtle Species Dies

Animals
The last known female Yangtze giant softshell turtle, who died Saturday. STR / AFP / Getty Images

The last known female Yangtze giant softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) has died, putting the critically endangered species at risk for extinction. There are now only three left in the world.


The turtle lived at Suzhou Zoo in China, where researchers attempted to artificially inseminate her Friday, according to the Suzhou Daily, as CNN reported.

"Sadly the female Rafetus did not wake up and after 24 hours died," conservation group the Asian Turtle Program (ATP) wrote in a Facebook Post.

In an earlier post, before the death was confirmed, ATP lamented what it would mean.

"As she was the only captive female globally this would be a tragic loss for such a rare species," the group wrote.

Researchers said that the turtle was in good health before the procedure, and that the procedure appeared to go smoothly, the Associated Press reported. They will conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

This was the fifth time that the more-than 90 year old turtle had been artificially inseminated. Researchers said they would store ovarian tissue samples "for future use," according to CNN.

There are now three of the turtles remaining, one male at the same Suzhou Zoo and two in the wild in Vietnam. One lives in a lake called Dong Mo and is estimated to be around 40 or 50 years old. The other was just discovered last April in Xuan Khanh lake, offering a rare bit of hope for the species, The New Yorker reported in December of 2018.

The genders of the Vietnamese turtles are unknown, but plans are underway to change that, The New Yorker explained:

Last year, a paper published in Scientific Reports showed that, contrary to prior understanding, softshell turtles possess sex chromosomes, which means that they can be sexed using DNA analysis. Minh Le, an evolutionary biologist at Vietnam National University and a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History, told me that preparations were already being made for a test on the Dong Mo turtle. (DNA samples were procured during its escape and capture in 2008.) Assuming things go smoothly, they should have results early next year.

The Yangtze giant softshell turtle is the largest freshwater turtle in the world, AFP reported. It can grow to be as much as 39 inches long and weigh as much as 220 pounds. It has been driven to the brink by a combination of hunting, pollution, shipping traffic and the building of dams.

In the New Yorker article, Brent Crane explained what it was like to see one in the wild during a visit to Vietnam.

"The head, coconut-size and with giant flared nostrils, was painted in squiggles of lime and pine green," Crane wrote. "Its bottom jaw was yellow. Sparkling in the sunshine was the long, thin bulge of the turtle's carapace. We watched it floating there for several minutes, passing the binoculars back and forth, keeping quiet. Then, as quickly as it had appeared, it was gone."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Jennifer Molidor, PhD

Climate change, habitat loss and pollution are overwhelming our planet. Thankfully, these enormous threats are being met by a bold new wave of environmental activism.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump mocked water-efficiency standards in new constructions last week. Trump said, "People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once. They end up using more water. So, EPA is looking at that very strongly, at my suggestion." Trump asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a federal review of those standards since, he claimed with no evidence, that they are making bathrooms unusable and wasting water, as NBC News reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
(L) Rushing waters of Victoria Falls at Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, Zimbabwe pictured in January 2018. Edwin Remsberg / VW PICS / UIG / Getty Images (R) Stark contrast of Victory Falls is seen on Nov. 13, 2019 after drought has caused a decline. ZINYANGE AUNTONY / AFP / Getty Images

The climate crisis is already threatening the Great Barrier Reef. Now, another of the seven natural wonders of the world may be in its crosshairs — Southern Africa's iconic Victoria Falls.

Read More Show Less

Monsanto's former chairman and CEO Hugh Grant speaks about "The Coming Agricultural Revolution" on May 17, 2016. Fortune Brainstorm E / Flickr

By Carey Gillam

Former Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant will have to testify in person at a St. Louis-area trial set for January in litigation brought by a cancer-stricken woman who claims her disease was caused by exposure to the company's Roundup herbicide and that Monsanto covered up the risks instead of warning consumers.

Read More Show Less
A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.