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Species of the month[edit]

Yangtze giant softshell turtle[edit]

Rafetus swinhoei

Rafetus swinhoei (Gray) 1873. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (4) 12: 156–161

Some facts about this turtle:

Distribution: The Yangtze giant softshell turtle has been known to inhabit the Yangtze River and Lake Tai, situated on the border of Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces, in eastern China, and Gejiu, Yuanyang, Jianshui and Honghe in Yunnan Province in southern China.
Protection status: Critically Edangered.
Etymology: Named after English biologist Robert Swinhoe who sent the first specimens to the author

This critically endangered species holds the title of being the largest freshwater turtle in the world. The Yangtze giant softshell turtle is on the brink of extinction due to habitat loss, hunting for subsistence and local consumption, and the use of the carapace and bones in alternative medicine. Skulls are often kept as trophies. Conservation efforts are concentrated on breeding captive turtles in China and searching for live specimens in the wild. An agreement was made to transfer the only known remaining female specimen located at the Changsha Zoo to the Suzhou Zoo to breed with the male specimen there. Also, efforts are being made to improve conditions for breeding at both the Suzhou Zoo and Western Temple in Suzhou.