‘World’s Strangest Turtle’ Brought Back from Near-Extinction

by Halle Ames

One of the world’s strangest turtles was brought back from the brink of extinction by scientists at the London Zoo.

The Cantor’s giant softshell turtle was thought to be extinct from the earth as it hasn’t been seen in India for ten years. This is due to residents hunting the turtles for their meat and the destruction of its ecosystem along the coastlines and in freshwater, reports Daily Mail.

However, a nest of Cantor’s giant softshell turtles was located in Kerala, India, in 2020. Unfortunately, it was too late. Locals had destroyed the nest by sand mining the area.

Cantor’s Giant Softshell

Furthermore, the Cantor’s giant softshell turtle is the largest freshwater reptile of its kind, growing up to six feet long. Many regard this reptile as one of the world’s strangest-looking turtles since it technically has no shell. Instead, its protection comes from the protruding rib cage over its back but still under its skin.

The turtle also buries itself under the sand with only its eyes visible.

This strategy helps with hunting fish and crab, who never see their assailant coming. Once prey is within range, the turtle darts forward, catching the small creatures in their powerful jaws and crushing them with ease.

Cantor’s giant softshell turtle only had small populations surviving in parts of Cambodia and Vietnam. Researchers deemed the turtles as critically endangered.

In addition, According to the E.D.G.E of Existence, Cantor’s giant softshell is listed under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, designated as a First Grade Protected Animal in China and is also a protected species in Myanmar and Vietnam.

Save the Turtles

Thankfully, a team of researchers from the Zoological Society of London found some of the baby turtles to save and raise away from harm. Additionally, this will help, if not guarantee, the reptiles are not entirely eradicated and can hopefully recover. The Zoological Society will release the animals back into the wild once they are safely born.

Ayushi Jain, a researcher with the Zoological Society of London, is responsible for the remarkably rare discovery. She found the turtles in the Chandragiri river in Kerala, India. Jain found the eggs with the help of local residents, who call the Cantor’s giant softshell turtle “Bheemanama” or “Paala poovan.”

Ben Tapley, the Zoological Society of London Zoo’s curator of amphibians and reptiles, oversaw the transport of the precious eggs.

Just last week, the team released five hatchlings back in India. Scientists will release more hatchings in the upcoming weeks and months.