Campus News

Inside Science quote emeritus ecology professor about on turtle research


Whit Gibbons

Whit Gibbons, herpetologist and professor emeritus of ecology, was quoted in the Inside Science article “How Hunters Might Help Protect the World’s Rarest Turtle.”

The Swinhoe’s softshell turtle (also called the Yangtze giant softshell turtle) is said to be the rarest turtle in the world, with just one captive male and another of unknown sex living in the Vietnam wild. This species of turtle is nearing extinction due to habitat loss, poaching and capture for illegal trade. However, the species’ outlook doesn’t appear to be as grim as scientists once thought.

Because scientific knowledge is “far from sufficient in Vietnam” and Vietnam is a country scientists know little about, there is hope for the rediscovery of the turtles.

A study conducted by interviewing and surveying local hunters showed promise and led researchers to search for trap locations, but some scientists feel the results could be misleading.

“People can forget, they can lie or they can remember wrong,” said Gibbons. “Someone is going to find them, but it might not make a difference [to their survival] without changes in cultural attitudes and habitat degradation.”