The Hanoitimes - An additional individual of the Swinhoe`s Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei), the world’s most endangered turtle species, has been found at Xuan Khanh Lake on the outskirts of Hanoi.
Xuan Khanh Lake came to our attention in 2012 when a photograph emerged of what was reported to be a large turtle but which was not clear enough to confirm as an animal.
The finding helps to raise the number of these turtles living around the world to four and opens up the opportunity for breeding one of the world’s rarest animals.
New individual of "Sword Lake turtle" found on the outskirts of Hanoi
This finding brings new hope, with the possibility of bringing wild animals together in a controlled environment for captive breeding. However, the conservation and future of this, the world’s rarest turtle species, is far from guaranteed, a great deal of effort is now needed to protect these known animals and ensure they are able to breed, this will mean bringing them together in a single location.
In January 2016 a large male Swinhoe’s Softshell Turtle that had lived in Hanoi's Sword Lake passed away. This ancient animal was the last surviving individual of the species in the lake and was possibly over 100 years old.
Now believed to be almost extinct in the wild, as of 2016 only three animals were known globally, two are being kept in Suzhou Zoo in China, a female and ancient male who have been together since 2008, but despite successful nesting all of their eggs have been infertile.
Meanwhile, a single wild animal was found in 2007 that resides in Dong Mo Lake west of Hanoi.
Though the surveys have identified numerous sites where the species historically used to survive, in most of the sites, accounts of hunting are old and it’s likely that the species is now locally extinct in many areas.
Historical wetlands have been dammed to form isolated artificial lakes, and it’s from these areas that most of the last giant turtles were caught. But some of these lakes are large and complex, well over 1,000 ha in size. The animals are secretive, surfacing and basking rarely, preferring to spend time in the depths of the lakes. This makes positive identification of the animals that are reported extremely difficult and time consuming.