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Vietnamese Mythical Turtle Found
The Swinhoes soft-shell turtle was believed to be extinct in the wild
May 01, 2008
      
A "Big" turtle was found, how big is not told unfortunately. However it does have the makings of being a legendary figure, not unlike King Arthur's "Lady of the Lake" except without the lady part -- but still offering a sword, and from a lake non-the-less.

US researchers have found a rare giant turtle in northern Vietnam after a three-year hunt -- a find sure to thrill both scientists and locals, who consider the animal a mythical creature.

The Swinhoe's soft-shell turtle was believed to be extinct in the wild. Only three of the turtles are known to exist in captivity -- two are at zoos in China, and one is in Hoan Kiem Lake in downtown Hanoi.

After three years of searching lakes and wetlands along the Red River in northern Vietnam, researchers sponsored by Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and the Cleveland Zoological Society, turned their focus to a lake just west of Hanoi, where local residents claimed to have occasionally seen the gigantic soft-shell turtle. Field biologist Nguyen Xuan Thuan, with Education for Nature in Vietnam, found and photographed the turtle as it basked on the lake's surface, allowing scientists to confirm the animal was the extremely rare Swinhoe's turtle.

This is an incredibly important discovery because the Swinhoe's turtle is one of the most critically endangered species of turtle in the world," said Doug Hendrie, the Vietnam-based coordinator of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's Asian Turtle Program. "This species has legendary status among the people of Vietnam, so this is perhaps an opportunity for the legend to live on."

Other than the turtle discovered by Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's Asian Turtle Program, only three of the giant turtles are known to remain. Two of them are at zoos in China, and one is in the Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi. The Swinhoe's soft-shell turtle is considered by many in Vietnam to be a national treasure.

According to folklore, the rare turtle has emerged at key points in Vietnam's history. The legend says that in the 15th century, the giant turtle rose from Hoan Kiem Lake to reclaim a magical sword that was given to Emperor Le Loi to expel the Chinese army from Vietnam. Some people believe that the single, large soft-shell turtle that occupies the lake today is the very same turtle that retrieved the sword from the Emperor and returned it to God.

Hanoi residents often line the banks of Hoan Kiem Lake in hopes of spotting the legendary turtle, which some believe brings good fortune to those who see it.

"This is one of those mythical species that people always talked about but no one ever saw, so it's hugely significant that we found this lone turtle in the wild," said Geoff Hall, General Curator of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. "It gives us some hope for a species that truly is on the verge of extinction."

The demise of this revered species is largely due to hunters who captured and killed them for food or to make traditional medicine from their bones. Loss of nesting habitats along major rivers and pollution also are to blame. And while the recent discovery of another specimen of the Swinhoe's turtle is promising, the future of the species remains uncertain.

Resource: Science Daily Article
More About: The Swinhoe Turtle
Posted in categories:
[Mythical Creatures]
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Added by werewolf on October 07, 2008
this is asome
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