A newly-found Swinhoe’s Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) at Dong Mo lake in Hanoi's Son Tay district is good news for turtle conservation worldwide this year, representing the opportunity for Vietnam's to save this rare species of turtle.

The information was released at a workshop on December 18 in Hanoi.

At the workshop, scientists from the Hanoi Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, in collaboration with the Asian Turtle Program (ATP) of Indo-Myanmar Conservation (IMC) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) discussed solutions to  prevent the extinction of the Swinhoe’s Softshell Turtle.

They revealed that genetic testing has confirmed a female turtle captured on October 22 in Dong Mo lake is definitively a Swinhoe’s Softshell Turtle.

Hope arises for the breeding this rare turtle species as there is now one known male Swinhoe’s Softshell Turtle at Suzhou Zoo in China; and now the female was found in October in Dong Mo lake. Authorities believe there is at least one more of these turtles in Dong Mo lake and yet another in nearby Xuan Khanh lake. Conservationists hope to at least to capture and determine the sex of the turtle in both Dong Mo and Xuan Khanh lakes this coming spring. 

 The Swinhoe’s Softshell Turtle is identified as the rarest turtle in the world. There are only four units found the world, including one in Suzhou Zoo (China) and three in Vietnam. The last known female Swinhoe’s Softshell Turtle died on April 13, 2019. The hope for saving the species has turned to the possibility of additional turtles found in two lakes of Dong Mo and Xuan Khanh.
 With the close coordination and technical support from the capture and animal care teams, on October 23, a health check was done on the reptile with ultrasound and sampling.
 An identification microchip was implanted, while swabs and blood samples were taken for a future conservation plan. 
 The genetic results from the tests confirmed this turtle was a female Swinhoe’s Softshell Turtle. This morphological exam was done by the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources of the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, while the independent gene analysis was conducted by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, the Central Institute for Natural Resources and Environmental Studies, the Vietnam National University in Hanoi.
 The turtle weighed in at 86kg and nearly 1m in length. After sampling for analysis, this turtle was returned to Dong Mo lake.
 
 On March 3, with the authorization from the Hanoi People's Committee, the municipal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development signed a memorandum of understanding with the Asian Turtle Program including IMC and WCS on communication and protection of the turtles. In 2020, the program has implemented many contents of the plan.
 The Swinhoe’s Softshell Turtle can live to over 100 years old.
 Experts are checking the health of the turtle.
 The Hanoi Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) requested the Department of Fisheries to continue implementing the Plan 200 of the municipal People's Committee to restore and conserve rare and endangered soft-shell turtles which are listed in red books of Vietnam and the world, according to the DARD. Photo: Asian Turtle Program
 Experts have said that this is the best news of the year, and quite possibly the last of the decade, for global turtle conservation. As the most endangered turtle on Earth, a tremendous amount of energy and resources have been dedicated to the preservation of Swinhoe’s softshell turtle. They look forward to continuing to provide technical expertise to the project in 2021, and achieving more successes. Photo: WCS
The animal is prepared for the release in Dong Mo lake. Photo: WCS
 Experts expected to find the second animal is a male Swinhoe’s Softshell Turtle. Photo: Asian Turtle Program

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