After surviving for thousands of years in the lakes of Southeast Asia, the East Asian giant softshell turtle may finally be faced with extinction, as the last member of the species lingers on in Vietnams Hoan Kiem Lake. Reptile specialists from the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society recently observed the reptile in its last known habitat and fear it may live out its final years without a mate.
"This individual could very well be the last of its kind," said John Behler, Curator of Herpetology at the Bronx Zoo, who confirmed that the turtle still exists in Hoan Kiem Lake. "We know next to nothing about this species or its habitat requirements, other than the fact that it is extremely rare and is presumably on the brink of extinction."
Freshwater turtles and tortoises across Asia have become increasingly endangered by a wide variety of threats, such as collection for local consumption, and collection for regional and international food and the pet trade. Of the approximately 90 species of freshwater turtles and tortoises that occur in South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia and New Guinea, more than a third are listed in the World Conservation Unions 1996 Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered. Asian turtles did receive some good news in 2001, when China, a main market for the growing trade in turtles for both food and medicine, restricted the importation of all turtles and tortoises from Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia.
Stephen Sautner | EurekAlert!
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