By Rick Hudson
The Turtle Survival Alliance has confirmed that one of the world’s four known remaining Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtles (Rafetus swinhoei), has died in Vietnam. This turtle – believed to be a male – was highly revered in Vietnam and was a long-time occupant of Hoan Kiem Lake in the heart of downtown Hanoi. Sightings of the turtle attracted large crowds, as well as visitors from around the world.
This turtle made global news back in 2011 when health concerns prompted officials to capture the turtle for medical treatment and mount a massive cleanup effort for the polluted lake.
The death of this Rafetus reduces the known number of living animals to three: one in a protected lake in Vietnam and a pair at the Suzhou Zoo in China. Since 2008, this pair has been the subject of intensive efforts to encourage them to reproduce in captivity as a last ditch effort to save the species, currently recognized as the most endangered turtle in the world.