Poor forgotten animals...
Unnoticed and unappreciated for five decades, a large female turtle with a stained, leathery shell is now a precious commodity in this city’s decaying zoo. She is fed a special diet of raw meat. Her small pool has been encased with bulletproof glass. A surveillance camera monitors her movements. A guard is posted at night.
The agenda is simple: The turtle must not die.
Earlier this year, scientists concluded that she was the planet’s last known female Yangtze giant soft-shell turtle. She is about 80 years old and weighs almost 90 pounds.
As it happens, the planet also has only one undisputed, known male. He lives at a zoo in the city of Suzhou. He is 100 years old and weighs about 200 pounds. They are the last hope of saving a species believed to be the largest freshwater turtles in the world.
“It’s a very dire situation,” said Peter Pritchard, a prominent turtle expert in the United States who has helped in trying to save the species. “This one is so big and it has such an aura of mystery.”
For many Chinese, turtles symbolize health and longevity, but the saga of the last two Yangtze giant soft-shells is more symbolic of the threatened state of wildlife and biodiversity in China. Pollution, hunting and rampant development are destroying natural habitats, and also endangering plant and animal populations. Continue reading...