Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Last chance for a giant turtle

Rafetus swinhoei, the Yangtze soft-shelled turtle, is a contender for the title of "world's largest freshwater turtle." It's also, unfortunately, a contender for the title "turtle species closest to extinction."
In the zoo in the Chinese city of Changsha lives the last known female specimen, an estimated 80 years old and weighing about 40 kg. In a zoo in Suzhou lives a 90-kg turtle, about a century old, who is the last known male. After years of difficulties, the zoos have reached an agreement to allow the female to be sent to meet the male. Scientists will try both artificial insemination and old-fashioned mating in a last-chance plan to save the species.

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