This Super Rare Turtle May Not Go Extinct After All. Here's Why

In 2019, the scientific community mourned the loss of the last female of the Swinhoe's softshell turtle, one of the rarest turtles in existence.

The female's death, which happened during an artificial insemination procedure, brought its population down to two. Scientists knew without the female turtle, the species was likely to go extinct. The remaining Swinhoe's softshell turtle was a male, the female's mate, and another of unknown sex was swimming in a lake in Vietnam.

But recently, there was something approaching a miracle, reported The New York Times. The Swinhoe's softshell turtle in the Vietnamese lake turned out to be female. And scientists believe they've spotted yet another turtle living in the wild.

Swinhoe's softshell turtles are considered the most endangered turtle in the world. The species grow to as big as six feet long and can weigh as much as 370 pounds. It can live for 100 years in the wild. Though the turtle is revered in much of Asia, its numbers dwindled as cities grew and people hunted it for food.

In 2019, the Vietnamese government established a turtle conservation program. According to The Guardian, two Swinhoe softshell turtles were paired off in hopes of reproduction. But last year, after the two did not reproduce naturally, scientists decided to artificially inseminate the female. Unfortunately, she did not recover after anesthesia.

These aren't ninja turtles

The discovery of the latest female and of another Swinhoe's softshell turtle has given scientists hope, however. Researchers now plan to catch the other turtle, which was found in the same lake as the newly found female, to test its DNA and determine its sex. This will likely begin later this year when the lake's water levels fall, and the animals are more active.

The New York Times said the female was first discovered in 2007, but it wasn't until 2021 that scientists could capture it to check its sex. If the other Swinhoe's softshell turtle is determined as male, conservationists plan to bring both turtles to an enclosure nearby, where the scientists hope the two turtles will mate. There are no plans to mate the other remaining male with the newly found female. It turns out that the male could no longer naturally reproduce.

People are also scouring the lake to see if the two turtles have already reproduced. While there's no evidence of reproduction so far, scientists are hopeful that maybe the Swinhoe's softshell turtle can be saved. Finally, some excellent news for 2021 and the rest of turtle kind.