female turtle died over the weekend at a zoo in the city of Suzhou, leaving one species on the edge of extinction.
The Yangtze giant softshell turtle is native to China and Vietnam, making its home in the inland waterways of the region. That habitat has become increasingly threatened by humans who also happen to see the meat of the softshell turtle as a culinary delicacy which is said to have numerous health benefits.
Because of these factors, the number of known Yangtze giant softshell turtles in the world can be counted on one hand. With Xiangxiang’s death at the age of 90 on Saturday, there are now just three of her kind known to humans — one male turtle at the same zoo, said to be more than 100 years old, and two living in the wild in Vietnam of undetermined gender.
Xiangxiang’s death came just one day after researchers tried again, for the fifth time, to artificially inseminate her with sperm from her male counterpart so that her species might live on. Researchers say that she did not experience any complications from the procedure, but her condition suddenly deteriorated the next day. An autopsy will be carried out to learn the cause of death.
For a decade, experts at the Suzhou Zoo had been trying to get the two animals to mate. You can watch a short documentary from 2009 on the beginning of these efforts below: