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Species of the Rafetus genus increasingly endangered

Rafetus is a genus of highly endangered softshell turtles native to freshwater habitats and large rivers in Asia. The genus contains two species: the Swinhoe's soft shell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) and the Euphrates softshell turtle (Rafetus euphraticus). Little is known about these species and Rafetus swinhoei is considered by many to be the world's most endangered turtle species with only four individuals known to exist.

A major cause for the population decline in both species is the intensive use of the species' habitat by humans for water supply, irrigation, dam construction, fisheries or by water pollution. Different then Rafetus swinhoei which was hunted and traded mostly for local consumption, Rafetus euphraticus was rather threatened by habitat destruction (specifically by the construction of dams along the Euphrates and Tigris) and the intentional killing by fishermen. However, in a recent Iranian online newspaper it was reported that now Chinese oilfield workers in the Iranian southern Khuzestan province illegally hunt and eat the already endangered Euphrates softshell turtle, pushing isolated populations even further towards extinction.

The Asian Turtle Program (ATP) has documented in interview surveys that historically Rafetus swinhoei also was killed by fishermen in Vietnam due to the competition for fish. With this also being a threat to Rafetus euphraticus and the added pressure of Chinese workers starting to kill them for food, the future of the Euphrates softshell turtle is looking rather bleak and the species might share the same fate as their relatives in China and Vietnam, most likely being added to the ‘ most endangered turtles ' list in the near future.


Press release by: Sarah Wahl – ATP

Date: 27th February 2014

For more information about this subject please also read the article summary in the ATP Bulletin No117


Above: The future of the Euphrates softshell turtle (Rafetus euphraticus) is looking rather bleak and the species might share the same fate as their relatives in China and Vietnam, most likely being added to the ‘most endangered turtles' list in the near future

Above: Swinhoe's soft shell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) in Dong Mo lake, one of four individuals known to exist


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