Using interview surveys in northern Vietnam look for remaining Swinhoe’s softshell turtles in the wild

A view of the Da River, a complex and remote river system that might still be home to Rafetus in Lai Chau province, Vietnam. Photo by: Hoang Van Ha – ATP/IMC.

From the 15th of October 2018, the Asian Turtle Program (ATP) team spent 10 days in the field collecting information on the existence of the world’s rarest turtle species, the Swinhoe’s softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei), in Lai Chau province, northern Vietnam. Along the Da (Black) River, 101 interviews have been completed, with 27 trade records for shells and live turtles of six species recorded.

There are several historical records of Rafetus sightings and hunting events here around 10 years ago. However, since the Son La hydroelectric was dam completed in 2009, those animals have no longer been seen along the stretch of Da River above the dam. The interviewees also claimed that there have been no giant softshell turtles caught recently, but with a massive area of valleys now flooded it is possible that some Rafetus have survived and are now difficult to locate in these expansive sections of remote river.

We would like to send our special thanks to Nguyen The Tuan of Bac Giang University of Agriculture and Forestry and Nong Van Luong of the Vietnam National University of Forestry for joining us on this interview survey as volunteers. We also thank Lai Chau Forestry Protection Department for their support for this survey.

We would like to thank the Biodiversity Conservation Agency (BCA) of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MoNRE), Fisheries Department and Forest Protection Department (FPD), the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Ohio, USA (CMZ), the Turtle Conservation Fund (TCF), IUCN, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), British Chelonia Group (BCG), the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (MBZ), Ocean Park Conservation Foundation (OPCF), as well as all individuals for their continuous supports to the Rafetus project.

Press release by: Hoang Van Ha – ATP/IMC
Date: 24th October 2018

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