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Only Known Female Of World's Rarest Turtle Species Died In China Zoo

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The last known remaining female member of one of the world's rarest turtle species has died in Suzhou zoo in southern China.

One Of Four Remaining Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtles

The animal was one of the only four living Yangtze giant softshell turtles (Rafetus swinhoei) in the world. One is also housed in the Suzhou Zoo. Two others live in the wild in Vietnam but their genders are not yet known.

Authorities said that the 90-year-old animal died on Saturday after an attempt to artificially inseminate her.

Results of a medical examination show the turtle was in good health prior to the procedure and the artificial insemination appeared to go smoothly, but the turtle died the following day.

Futile Attempts To Produce An Offspring

The death of the last known female of the Yangtze giant softshell turtles appears to doom the species to extinction.

For years, scientists have been trying to breed the two turtles at Suzhou zoo in the hopes of saving the endangered species. All attempts, however, were unsuccessful largely due to the male having damaged penis.

"Since 2008, the zoo has been trying to get its pair to produce offspring, but the male's member, mutilated in a battle with another male some decades ago, produces shoddy sperm. (The other male died in the fight.) It is also very old," Brent Crane, Of The New Yorker, wrote in December.

Local and international experts have already collected ovarian tissue sample of the female turtle and would store them for potential use in the future. An autopsy will also be conducted to know the cause of death.

On The Brink Of Extinction

The Yangtze giant softshell turtle is native to Vietnam and China. It is listed at the top of the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species as critically endangered.

The species is now on the brink of extinction because of habitat loss, hunting, and consumption. The turtles' bones and carapace are also used in alternative medicine.

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