Fisheman sells Vietnam's endangered tortoise to Chinese man for $9,000

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A large tortoise belonging to a critically endangered species was sold to a Chinese man Friday after it was netted by a local man from the Red River in Hanoi two days earlier.

Nguyen Ba Toan, who had received different offers between VND17-100 million (US$5,000) earlier, said he was hesitant about the Chinese man's offer of VND180 million but his neighbors talked him into taking it.

The Trionychia tortoise weighing 24 kilograms, one meter long and 60 centimeters wide, had taken Toan around half an hour to bring it out of the water.

Toan said he didn't want to sell the first and possibly only precious animal he would ever catch in his fishing life, news website VnExpress reported.

"But the authorities never bothered. For more than three days, the tortoise refused to eat and got weaker, so I had to sell it," he said.

Nguyen Van Quan, a wildlife protection official at the non-profit organization Environment of Nature-Vietnam, said he was informed of the tortoise and had called Hanoi's concerned agencies to request a solution.

But the city's aquaculture and forestation agencies kept passing the buck to each other, Quan was quoted by the Tuoi Tre newspaper as saying.

Earlier on Thursday, Toan had told the news website that "If the government cares and wants to keep the animal for research or exhibition, I will hand it over.

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"Otherwise, I'd have to sell it as my house is small and does not have a good environment."

Toan's wife Le Thi Thai said her family has failed to have a good meal or sleep well since he netted the tortoise.

"People just came in to see the animal, many of them strangers. Some even knocked our door at 1 or 2 a.m. asking to have a look," Thai said.

"So we decided to sell it to save ourselves from the trouble," she said.

Ha Dinh Duc, a tortoise expert, said the animal is indigenous to Vietnam's southern region and can grow up to 50 kilograms. The netted tortoise might have escaped from the cage of some family, he surmised.

Trionychia tortoise is a super family of turtles that encompasses the species that are commonly referred to as soft-shelled turtles. It was in 2007 listed in the Vietnam Red Book as a species on the verge of extinction.

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