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The Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle

Rafetus - Photo by Gerald Kuchling/Turtle Survival Alliance

Rafetus – Photo by Gerald Kuchling/Turtle Survival Alliance

This is a guest post by the Turtle Survival Alliance in honour of World Turtle Day. The TSA is a recognized force for global turtle conservation, driven by a mission of zero turtle extinctions.  You can donate to their work here.

Most animals are best at one thing, but the Yangtze giant softshell turtle masters at least two. With only four individuals known to science, and only one of those a female, this turtle is one of the rarest animals on earth. However, that’s not the limit of its plight, because you see, it is also one of the ugliest!  Just look at her. Her beady little eyes have a twinkle that suggests defiance of extinction. Unfortunately, most people won’t notice her tiny eyes, because it’s difficult to see past the long soggy neck, massive girth, webbed talons and the rubbery-looking “snorkel” in front of her eyes.  These less-than-lovely physical characteristics may be one reason why the conservation of this species is rife with challenges.  Although another charming, albeit invisible, trait which this beauty bears is the unique (to aquatic turtles, that is) ability to breathe through her butt, allowing the exchange of oxygen while completely submerged.  It is no surprise that while the Yangtze giant softshell turtle stands apart, it is also in danger of standing alone.  The main causes of this species’ endangerment are habitat pollution, environmental degradation and believe it or not, consumption by humans. This last female Yangtze giant softshell turtle, one of the three remaining males, and the Turtle Survival Alliance, have joined forces in an effort to ensure that the world is never without this uniquely appealing turtle.  Take action this World Turtle Day and join the Turtle Survival Alliance in its mission to save the Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle from extinction. tsa_url

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