Legendary turtle released back into Hanoi lake

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A giant soft-shell turtle rescued from Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi for treatment three months ago was released back into the lake Tuesday. 

The Tuoi Tre newspaper cited Le Xuan Rao, director of Hanoi Department of Science and Technology, as saying the urtle has fully recovered and her external injuries well treated.

Before releasing the turtle back into the lake, veterinarians pumped lake water into a small holding tank - the makeshift hospital in the lake - so that the animal could adapt to its former environment, Rao said.

He said tests showed that the lake water was now safe for the turtle. Many kinds of fish have been added to the lake to ensure a feeding source for the turtle that Vietnamese scientists believe to be female and possibly of a new species.

Foreign experts have so far maintained that it is difficult to determine the sex of turtle of the Rafetus swinhoei species, which they suspect the turtle belongs to.

The 169-kg female turtle was caught on April 3, so veterinarians could examine skin lesions on her legs and head. The capture was effected after a steering committee was set up to make decisions about the turtle, believed to be more than a hundred years old.

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

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Hundreds of spectators had watched and cheered as the giant turtle was captured for treatment.

Many Vietnamese consider the animal to be a deity.

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

Over the last two millennia, legends say the deity has helped design fortifications, thwarted enemy armies and produced a number of enchanted weapons.

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