A female Yangtze giant softshell turtle at Suzhou Zoo in China. The species is on the brink of extinction after a female died ( AFP/Getty )
The last known female of one of the world’s rarest species of turtles has died, a zoo in southern China has said.
The animal was one of only four Yangtze giant softshell turtles known to remain in the world.
Suzhou Zoo, where the female turtle lived, is also the home to a male Yangtze giant softshell turtle. The other two live in Vietnam, though their genders are unknown.
The female turtle died on Saturday afternoon, the Suzhou city government said in a statement citing the zoo.
It said experts have already used technology to collect the turtle’s ovarian tissue for future research.
The turtle was more than 90 years old and had undergone a fifth attempt at artificial insemination shortly before it died, the state-run People’s Daily reported.
A medical examination found the turtle to be in good health before the procedure, the paper said, and the artificial insemination appeared to go smoothly.
But the turtle died the following day.
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Yangtze giant softshell turtles originated in China, making their homes in the Yangtze river and Taihu lake, according to the People’s Daily.
The species is the largest known living freshwater turtle, and is often referred to as the most endangered turtle in the world.
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Chinese and foreign experts are investigating the cause of the turtle’s death, the Suzhou city government said.