The Yangtze Giant Turtle, 1873 drawing

By Esteban Guerra, Age 8

The Yangtze giant softshell turtle is one of the world’s rarest turtles. The Yangtze is native to eastern and southern China and northern Vietnam. It is also known by the names of Red River giant softshell turtle, the Shanghai softshell turtle, the speckled softshell turtle and Swinhoe’s softshell turtle.

It comes from the Trionychidae or softshell turtle family species, many of them being freshwater turtles. It’s considered to be the most endangered turtle in the world, with only three known living on Earth, and is listed in the Red List of Threatened Species (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

The giant softshell turtle is known for its deep head with pig-like snout. It also holds the title of being the largest freshwater turtle, measuring over 100 centimeters (39 inches) in length and 70 centimeters (28 inches) in width, and can weigh up to 163 kilograms (360 pounds). This giant turtle is about to be extinct due to habitat loss, hunting, and now the growth of several hydropower cascade dams on the Red River in China may flood all the habitat and change the ecosystem further downstream in Vietnam.

According to a 2018 report from the Zoological Society of London, turtles and tortoises account for 29 of the world’s 100 most endangered reptiles.