The Loneliest Animals
Video: The Last Living Pair of Rafetus Turtles

In China, the last female rafetus turtle is about to be introduced to her new home at the Suzhou Zoo. She will take up residence in a divided breeding pond where – on the other side of a metal gate – the last male rafetus turtle is waiting to meet her. The stakes are incredibly high: this is literally the last chance the scientists have to save this species.

  • Brittany Blackwell

    Is there going to be a follow up show about the turtles and if the breeding worked or not?

  • Danilo Tiu

    How about stem cell technology? Will it help perpetuate the individual/ species?

  • Dave Straub

    Excellent film! It’s taken years to get to this point. Hope it works.

  • Joko Guntoro

    Great movie and works. I hope this effort works successfully to save Rafetus Turtle.

  • marion mccormack

    keep up the good work,congratulations to everyone involved with the project, I know how dedicated you are

  • Suzanne

    Amazing video!

  • Thom Tansey

    Excellent program. I hope the breeding next year of the last two Rafetus turtles in China is a success. I am encourage by the fact that the last time these two turtles met, for the first time ever, they did mate and produced fertilized eggs, though none of the eggs hatched to produce live young.

  • Adrian Wade

    if these turtles are the last 2 of the species, why risk the male attacking the female and killer her like he did in the past? would cloning or artificial insemination work better?

  • Karen

    How sad that certain species have to come to this. It saddened me further to know that while all this effort is being done to save this species of turtle, millions of turtles are being taken from the wild in the United States to end up in the live markets in China. If this doesn’t stop, our native turtles will disappear as well. China has eaten most of theirs.

  • Patricia

    Is there any theory as to why the first clutch of eggs didn’t survive? Might the transport, stress, new environment been contributory? Hope the next year is a success.

  • Helen

    Fantastic show. You must show it again!! And many more.

  • Nepos

    Great work, hope for the best.

  • dottie

    why do we wait for the last two species on earth.?? to continue hope for the future..why not breed them prior to them becomming the last two — try cloning –all these endangered species!!

  • JOHN

    they need to keep alot better records on the animals so not to let them det down so low … they do most other animales so wht not these too ? they get payed to do it so do there job or get out so some one can do the job better …

  • Catherine

    What a fantastic segment to a spectacular show. There are 2 turtles left-if necessary, after the next cycle of eggs are fertilized, can they possiblly be incubated to maturity-chance of hatching? Those that survive, closedly monitored until growth is progressing? Did I make any sense with that idea? Also, the Smithstonean Institute–cryogenics. I didn’t say these were good ideas-I just want the experts-bless them all- to keep trying. Where there is life, there is hope.

  • Barbie

    This was another wakeup call. I am grateful for those people dedicated to help our planet and its species. This show has inspired me to do my part.

  • Adam

    I understood from what I saw that the female laid a number of fertilized eggs but none were hatched successfully…this saddens me deeply, but we know so little of their breeding habits that it may just be true that we are missing something in the incubation or elsewhere in their cycle of life…maybe there is a symbiotic or parasitic relationship with some other organism that is some how critical to their proper development or hatching as it were…

    I don’t know and can only speculate, but I truly hope we save this species!!

  • Laura

    Is there an update on the breeding season from June 2009? Was it successful at all for this last pair of Rafetus turtles? After all the coverage last year, I haven’t heard a peep in 2009.

  • Danny

    Splendid, rare work done for China’s two remaining loneliest freshwater wanderers. Profound dedication.

  • Mellyaqua8

    very moving show sob sob

  • Jose

    I read somewhere that the eggs were not sucessfull because of a lack of calcium in the turtles diet. Are there any news?

  • Jose
  • Ellie

    Although it’s good in theory that they are breeding the last two remaining animals, to completely save this species, more animals would be needed. If the future of this species depends on the genetics of 2 single animals, their genetic pool will not be diverse enough to realistically keep this species alive for a long period of time. This is extremely sad, but a wake-up call that things must be done much sooner.

  • Heather

    Visit for updates on the Rafetus breeding attempts in China. Archived newsletters from June and July 2009 can be found under the Resources tab that detail the 2009 attempt. In addition, check out the China page (under Projects) for the latest news throughout the 2010 breeding season. Sign up for the TSA newsletter at to receive the latest news on turtle conservation via email.

  • Vicky “Kissysquirrel”

    WHY has it taken them so long to try and save these last two???? A breeding program should have been set up years ago.

  • Vicky “Kissysquirrel”

    Can’t they take eggs from the female and whatever from the male and genetically try to make babies, IF the mating of the last 2 turtles doesn’t produce a clutch? I am just in shock (and dismay) that they let the turtle population get down to TWO?? What is wrong with those people? Absolutely ignorant in my books. I mean did they wake up one day and say “Well we only have 2 turtles left….let’s try to mate them and see what happens. If it doesn’t work…oh well…there goes that species down the drain”

  • George

    I agree with an earlier comment that the record keeping of the population of these turtles in the wild needs to improve. For a species to dwindle to two before human intervention takes place is not acceptable. Regardless, I sincerely hope this program works.

  • Cassie

    The rest of the world is hoping the team will be successful. How very sad for Mother Earth that this species may be lost. Each lost species is a ripple of death that’s felt around the world. We have so much technology and information available to humans and yet there are so many species being lost. I hope it’s not too late for this most special pair.

  • gail

    Many acts of conservation and preservation are required in our present and future in order not to fail in our rsponsibility as stewerds on this magnificent planet. I applaud the final efforts to stop the extinction of this species. May as many of us as possible enter into this kind of work through our minds, voices, hands,and pockets.

  • MeeDm

    This is so sad! :(
    I really wanted the turtles to keep living thought most likely they will die off…
    but I really wish this plan of theirs could work out.

  • Hannah Kim

    MeeDm, nice comment it is sad
    i think that gail’s comment is right too…

  • Edward

    how many are left

  • carin harrington

    I heard Peter Pritchard head of Chelonian Society at a lecture say it was his childhood dream to save the Rafetus so this is exciting. There is one in Vietnam- can’t we get the two countries to put aside their difficulties and join to save the species?

    Wonderful project- lets pray for success.

  • Zdena Straka

    Great job TSA !!! God bless you and all turtles !!!!

  • Kirill

    why dont you just clone the thing

  • jamison tarman

    i think that its AMAZING that the last two are finally togather. but will cross breeding take effect

  • teddy sage

    This is amazing! I’m so glad we got to see this for our online lab! :)

  • Octa Kellond

    Do you have an update on the attempt to breed the Rafetous turtle? Thank you.

Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2014 THIRTEEN Productions LLC. All rights reserved.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.