One female is last hope for its nearly-extinct turtle species

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One Female Is Last Hope For Its Nearly-Extinct Turtle Species

A global team of animal experts have been attempting to save the Yangtze giant soft shell turtle from extinction.

They are trying to figure out a way to fertilize the eggs of the only female of that species known to be alive anywhere.

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Yangtze giant soft shell turtle
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One female is last hope for its nearly-extinct turtle species
A female Rafetus swinhoei (also known as Yangtze giant softshell turtle) is seen in the mud at Suzhou Zoo on May 6, 2015 in Suzhou, Jiangsu province of China. Organized by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and China's Institute of Zoology (IOZ), artificial insemination in a pair of the only left one-hundred-year-old Rafetus swinhoei was conducted in southeast China's Suzhou Zoo and gained success which meant that there existing hope to save the world's largest freshwater turtle species. Rafetus swinhoei is an extremely rare species of softshell turtle found in Vietnam and China. Only four living individuals are known and it is listed as critically endangered in the IUCN Red List. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
A male Rafetus swinhoei (also known as Yangtze giant softshell turtle) is seen after being collected sperm at Suzhou Zoo on May 6, 2015 in Suzhou, Jiangsu province of China. Organized by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and China's Institute of Zoology (IOZ), artificial insemination in a pair of the only left one-hundred-year-old Rafetus swinhoei was conducted in southeast China's Suzhou Zoo and gained success which meant that there existing hope to save the world's largest freshwater turtle species. Rafetus swinhoei is an extremely rare species of softshell turtle found in Vietnam and China. Only four living individuals are known and it is listed as critically endangered in the IUCN Red List. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
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She is estimated to be around 100 years old, and though her fertility is questionable, researchers decided to try artificial insemination to help give the turtles a chance for survival.

Their previous efforts to mate her with the male at the zoo led to successful laying of eggs, but none ever became fertilized.

Scientists eventually examined the male and figured out the reason — its sex organs had been damaged, likely in a fight with another turtle 20 years earlier.

They were able to retrieve his sperm using an electro-ejaculation method and, after determining a degree of viability, inseminated the female.

Scientists will know if this attempt has been successful after she lays the eggs in the coming weeks. Still, Scientific American notes that it will be years -- perhaps 10-15 -- before any newborns could hopefully breed and help expand the species.

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Endangered species
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One female is last hope for its nearly-extinct turtle species
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A female Sumatran rhino named Ratu, right, is seen with her newly-born calf at Way Kambas National Park in Lampung, Indonesia, Monday, June 25, 2012. Ratu, a highly endangered Sumatran rhinoceros, gave birth to the calf Saturday in western Indonesia, a forestry official said. It is only the fifth known birth in captivity for the species in 123 years. (AP Photo)
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(Photo by Alex Borisenko/Biodiversity Institute of Ontario via Flickr)

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A giant soft-shell turtle which is considered a sacred symbol of Vietnamese independence is guided into a cage for a health check by handlers at Hoan Kiem lake in the heart of Hanoi. Thousands of onlookers cheered in central Hanoi on April 3, 2011 when rescuers captured for treatment the ailing and ancient giant turtle. Legend has it that the turtle is the guardian of a magical sword once used in the 15th century to drive out Chinese invaders. Concern has mounted in recent months over the health of the animal likely to be over 100 years old and one of the last of a critically endangered species -- it is one of only four Rafetus swinhoei turtles known to exist in the world. (Photo by Vietnam News Agency via AFP/Getty Images)

Madagascar Pochard

(Photo by darwin_initiative via Flickr)

The black rhino baby, that has not been named yet, stands in its enclosure in the zoo in Magdeburg, eastern Germany, Thursday April 2, 2015. The little male rhino was born on on March 25, 2015. (AP Photo/dpa,Jens Wolf)
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