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The Last Giant Turtle Of Her Kind Just Passed Away

This is what extinction looks like.

The last known female of the rarest kind of giant turtle in the world has just died.

The female Yangtze giant softshell turtle passed away at the Suzhou Shangfangshan Forest Zoo in China, where she has lived since 2008. She was put under anesthesia during a fifth attempt to artificially inseminate her, a procedure that people hoped would help save her species from extinction. This time, she never woke up. 

With just three male Yangtze giant softshell turtles left, the death of the last female makes the species functionally extinct

"It is tragic that the only known female of this species has died," the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) wrote in a statement, "but the real tragedy here is that this species has been decimated to near extinction by hunting and habitat destruction." 

The female was first brought to the zoo in hopes that she would successfully mate with a 100-year-old male Yangtze giant softshell in residence there. But the couple never managed to reproduce naturally. That's when conservationists decided to try artificial insemination. The female underwent several attempted insemination procedures that failed to produce viable eggs before she died during the fifth. 

“Sadly, this time the female turtle did not recover normally as she had in the past and she died despite 24 hours of nonstop emergency care," WCS wrote.

But there's a faint glimmer of hope: The species is famously elusive in the wild, so it's possible there's still a female hiding somewhere in the forests of China and Vietnam — it's just a matter of keeping her habitat safe and finding her. 

"Scientists hope that this species can still be saved by working in conjunction with partners in China and with the Vietnamese government where two individuals of this turtle species, whose sex has not been determined, are known to be in the wild," WCS wrote. 

You can help prevent turtles from going extinct by making a donation to the Turtle Survival Alliance