Hanoi lake giant turtle may be a new species

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A giant soft-shell turtle rescued from Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi earlier this month may belong to a hitherto unknown species, scientist Ha Dinh Duc told Thanh Nien.

At a press conference last Saturday in Hanoi, researchers said DNA tests confirmed suspicions that the turtle belongs to a species other than Rafetus swinhoei, as had long been believed.

Hanoi authorities have sent the turtle's DNA sample to a Swiss DNA Bank for further tests.

"If the results coincide with our tests, Vietnam can declare the Hoan Kiem turtle a new species and name it Rafetus Vietnamensis," scientist Le Tran Binh told Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper.

On April 3, the 169-kilogram female turtle was finally caught so veterinarians could examine skin lesions on the animal's legs and head.

It took at least 50 people two hours to net the turtle and transfer it to a small island in the lake in a rescue coordinated by the Asian Turtle Program.

A steering committee has been set up to make decisions about the turtle, believed to be more than a hundred years old.

Hundreds of spectators watched and cheered as the giant turtle was rescued. Many Vietnamese consider the animal to be a deity.

The Hoan Kiem Lake turtles were traditionally believed to be manifestations of the Golden Turtle God, or Kim Qui.

Over the last two millennia, the deity is said to have helped design fortifications, thwart enemy armies and produce a number of enchanted weapons.

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