Experts in Hanoi have captured a
legendary giant turtle for medical treatment, a milestone in a case that has
grabbed national attention and cast a spotlight on environmental degradation in
Several dozen people including
special forces soldiers swam and used boats to pull three rings of nets around
the rare beast the size of a car door with a head as big as a human’s, in Hoan
Kiem Lake in the heart of the Vietnamese capital.
In recent months the turtle has
surfaced almost twice as frequently as in previous years, according to
state-run media, and what appear to be pink sores have been photographed on its
shell, neck and feet, raising alarm.
Experts believe the turtle,
weighing 440 lb, may be suffering the effects of pollution, snaggings by fish
hooks, attacks from smaller red ear turtles that have proliferated in the lake,
or all three.
According to Vietnamese legend, a
giant turtle in the same lake — some believe even the same animal — reclaimed
a magic sword given to king Le Loi in the 15th century that he used to win
independence from China’s Ming Dynasty.
The lake was thereafter named ‘Ho
Hoan Kiem’, or ‘Lake of the Returned Sword’, and Hanoi has been built up around
Scientists have said they believe
the turtle caught on may be more than 100 years old and a member of the
critically endangered ‘Rafetus Swinhoei’ family of turtles, although others
have dubbed it an independent sub species, ‘Rafetus Leloii’.
It was put into a pen on an island
in the middle of the lake that has been dubbed its hospital and sanatorium.