It is with great disappointment that TSA must report that the latest attempt to artificially inseminate the last known female Yangtze Giant Softshell Rafetus swinhoei, has proven unsuccessful.
With only three known individuals remaining, two in captivity in China and one in a lake in Vietnam, R. swinhoei has the dubious distinction of being the most endangered turtle species on Earth. Previous attempts at natural mating and traditional cloacal artificial insemination had failed, prompting TSA, our allies, and Chinese zoologists to attempt abold procedure in April 2016, in which Dr. Gerald Kutchling lead a surgical team in an artificial insemination attempt that bypassed the complex cloaca and injected semen directly into the anesthetized female’s oviducts. Hopes were high that at long last, fertile eggs would be produced.
The female subsequently laid 65 eggs at the Suzhou Zoo, and in late June of this year, Dr. Kutchling traveled to China to check for fertility. Unfortunately, candling the eggs revealed that all 65 were infertile.
Although TSA and our allies are disappointed that we have not yet succeeded in breeding the last R. swinhoei, our commitment to the species remains unbreakable. While this latest attempt once again resulted in frustration, TSA is more committed than ever to zero turtle extinctions and a great deal of information has been learned from the experience; information that will be put towards our continued efforts to save this magnificent species.