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Science: 

100 year-old endangered turtles must mate to survive

YangtzeGiantSoftshellTurtle-2

“No pressure, but if you don’t have a baby soon your entire species will die.”

You would think that by the time you got to 100 years old, you’d be able to put your feet up and enjoy the final years of your life in peace. Not, however, if you’re a Yangtze giant softshell turtle.

Only four known Yangtze giant soft shell turtles are known to remain in the World, three male and one female. Two have resided in Suzhou Zoo together since 2008. When hopes that they would reproduce together naturally were not realized, Scientists decided to take matters into their own (ahem) hands to ensure that the species didn’t go extinct.

If you thought it would be hard to be the last female of your species, take a moment for the poor male turtle in this situation who was sedated and had his semen extracted using an electro-ejaculation method. Sorry big guy, but it’s for the good of turtlekind.

Dr. Gerald Kuchling of the World Conservation Society, who organized the insemination effort, provided a few more details in case you need them: “At first we tried semen collection through manual stimulation and the use of a vibrator, but as previously found in another softshell turtle, the only way was through sedation of the male and electro-ejaculation—risky procedures due to his old age.”

Luckily the artificial insemination worked, and the female is expected to lay up to 60 eggs in the next week. Once the eggs are laid, there are no promises that they will contain any viable embryos, and unfortunately previous attempts at the procedure with other species of soft shell turtles proved unsuccessful.

Still, the scientists remain hopeful that these 100 year-old turtles might soon become parents together for the first time, bringing their species that little further away from the brink. Isn’t that beautiful?

Photo via Gerald Kuchling / WCS

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