There are only four Yangtze giant softshell turtles left living in the entire world. Two males live in Vietnam, and the other two (one male and one female) live in China at the Suzhou Zoo. These two Chinese turtles are over one-hundred years old. When they arrived at the Suzhou Zoo in 2008, they began a captive breeding program, but the past eight years have not been as reproductively fruitful as scientists have thought. Now, it’s a race against time to figure out a way for the turtles to reproduce so the species can live on.
The male turtle is unable to fertilize the female’s eggs himself, so the team of scientists in charge of the project have determined reproduction is only possible through artificial insemination. This is the first time this process has been used with any softshell turtle, and although previous attempts with other turtles have been unsuccessful, they hope this will keep the population of turtles alive. Scientists will know in about a month if the eggs are fertilized and they hope the female will have children with her when she is moved back to the Changsha Zoo this autumn.