On the 15th September 2011 a new skull of the critically endangered Swinhoe’s softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) was discovered in a local household in the Minh Quan commune, Tran Yen District of Yen Bai district. A year previously, in August 2010, members of the Asian Turtle Program (ATP) of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo organized a community meeting in commune which was attended by 173 locals from three villages. The meeting discussed the importance of Rafetus swinhoei species, native and common in the area 20 years ago but hunted for food extensively and possibly extinction in the area. Those within the community agreed to cooperate with the authorities to conserve this important species if it survives or is encountered in the area.
Mr. Sach, a local who attended this meeting had been a Rafetus hunter himself back in the days and was still keeping a skull and some bone pieces of a Rafetus which he has caught around 1985 on a small island in the Minh Quan lake with a net and spears. The turtle weighed 57kg and was killed for food which was shared with relatives. He had forgotten about the skull and bone kept above a fire in his kitchen until reminded by a local counterpart of the ATP gathering information around Minh Quan lake, following this he was able to find them and present them to the ATP. Mr. Sach expressed his interest in helping conserve this species if it still survives now he realizes its rarity and importance. He also hopes the giant soft shell turtles will return to the Minh Quan lake someday.
Press Release by: Pham Van Thong & Sarah Wahl – Asian Turtle Program (ATP)
Press Release – August 2011
Thank you very much to Columbus Zoo, Turtle Conservation Fund (TCF), Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF), BirdLife International and the GG Wade Fund for supporting this conservation work and to the local communities for their interest.