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The fate of large softshell turtles in Vietnam

On the 12th of April 2014 photographs appeared on the Facebook which clearly show the butchering of a large softshell turtle. Initial concerns were that this could be a large Swinhoe's Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei), better known as the Hoan Kiem Turtle in Vietnam, and considered critically endangered and the worlds rarest turtle species with only four individuals known in existence globally.

However its reported location in Yang Reh Lake, Yang Reh commune, Krong Brong district, Dak Lak province in central Vietnam and further inspection of the photographs identified the animal as a very large Asiatic Softshell Turtle (Amyda cartilaginea). Reportedly 87kg this was likely a very old animal which is likely decades old. Unfortunately the Asiatic Softshell Turtle is not specifically protected under national law although it is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN and is increasingly threatened from hunting and trade with soft-shell turtles in high demand for traditional food in Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia.

What is of greater concern is that this is the fate of most large softshell turtles caught in Vietnam. They are either consumed as food within Vietnam or enter the international wildlife trade to neighbouring countries such as China. For hardshell turtle the majority of animals are exported although some local consumption does occur within Vietnam. Such a fate could still await the worlds rarest turtle species as Swinhoe's Softshell Turtles may survive unknown in lakes in northern Vietnam or southern China. We strongly urge individuals to contact the local authorities if they known of large turtles in their community or hear of them being caught.

Written by: Timothy McCormack & Nguyen Thu Thuy - ATP

Date: 16th May 2014

Download this press release here

Although gruesome this is the reality of what is destined for many of Asia's large, and increasingly rare, softshell turtles. This Facebook from the 12th April 2014 show the butchering of a large Asiatic Softshell Turtle (Amyda cartilaginea)


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