Given that there are only four of the world’s rarest freshwater turtle, Swinhoe’s soft-shell turtle’s (Rafetus swinhoei), known to exist in the wild or captivity today, the news this fall from the Suzhou Zoo’s captive breeding program that their male may be infertile has forced researchers to reconsider the program’s future.
Not only is it the rarest freshwater turtle species, Swinhoe’s softshell turtle is also famous for it role in Vietnamese legend as the fabled Sword Lake Turtle, which inhabits Hoàn Kiếm Lake (“The Lake of the Returned Sword”) in Hanoi, Vietnam. But of the handful of Swinhoe’s softshell turtles known to scientists to exist in the wild or captivity in recent years, five have died since the 1990s, leaving only four remaining: one in Hoàn Kiếm Lake, one in the wild in Đồng Mỏ Lake west of Hanoi, and two in captivity, the latter now both part of the Suzhou Zoo’s captive breeding program.
Since 2008, when the Changsha Zoo’s…
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