The demise is tragic news for this beloved species because no females are known to exist.

On April 21 at ng Mô Lake in the nation’s capital of Hanoi, Vietnamese media reported that one of the last Yangtze gigantic softshell turtles was discovered dead. According to numerous reports, this was the final female of the species, therefore putting the adored species on the verge of extinction.

The dead turtle was about 1.56 meters (5 feet and 1 inch) long and weighed 93 kilograms (57 pounds), according to VnExpress.

With the death of this pig-nosed individual, there are currently only three remaining males in the world: two of them are in China, and the third is swimming in Xuân Khanh Lake in Hanoi.

A Yangtze giant softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) pictured in China back in 2015.

A Yangtze giant softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) was pictured in China in 2015. Image credit: Wildlife Conservation Society


Phung Huy Vinh, director of Son Tay Town’s economic division, told VnExpress that the cause of death has not yet been determined.

Later, the leader of the Asian Turtle Programme for Indo-Myanmar Conservation acknowledged the death and noted that the person was the last female in the program.

“It is the same individual that we’ve been monitoring in recent years. It’s a real blow,” The director of the Asian Turtle Programme for Indo-Myanmar Conservation, Tim McCormack, told TIME.

“It was a large female that had great reproductive capacity. She could have laid a hundred eggs or more a year,” added McCormack.

The world’s final female Yangtze giant softshell turtle reportedly passed away in 2019 following a botched artificial insemination effort in China. However, the discovery that a female was residing in Vietnam across the border gave optimism for the animal’s survival.

Those hopes appear to be over, at least for the time being. There is a chance that further members of the elusive species, both male and female, may still exist, but there is no guarantee.

The Yangtze gigantic softshell turtle is the world’s largest freshwater turtle species. It is also called the Hoan Kim turtle and the Swinhoe’s softshell turtle. Due to overhunting and habitat destruction, they are no longer found in northern Vietnam or southern China, where they once flourished.

Vietnam attaches great cultural significance to the unique turtle. Although there is some disagreement, it is generally agreed that the enormous Yangtze softshell turtles served as the model for the tale of Kim Quy, a golden turtle god who appears in some Vietnamese traditions. This character is believed to have frequently shown up at key moments throughout Vietnamese history to fend off invasions by foreign enemies.

Losing this person undoubtedly affects the nation because of its close ties to Vietnam’s past.

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