One of world's three Hoan Kiem turtles dies

By Vo Hai   April 24, 2023 | 12:35 am PT
One of world's three Hoan Kiem turtles dies
A Hoan Kiem turtle in Dong Mo Lake, Hanoi. Photo courtesy of the Asian Turtle Program
An endangered Hoan Kiem Turtle, among the last of its kind in the world, has died at a Hanoi lake.

Phung Huy Vinh, head of the economic department of Son Tay Town, said a member of a non-profit turtle protection group found the dead Swinhoe's softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) at Dong Mo Lake on Sunday.

The turtle had been chipped and released into the lake in 2020.

"Its cause of death has yet to be confirmed," Vinh said.

An official of the IMC non-profit, which oversees a project for the conservation of the Hoan Kiem Turtle, said the dead turtle was 1.56 m long and weighed 93 kg.

Its body is now in the hands of researchers so that its age and cause of death can be determined.

The Hoan Kiem turtle was first described in 1873, but there is little research on the softshell species.

There are currently four specimens of its kind in existence, with two in China; one in Dong Mo Lake and the other in Xuan Khanh Lake, both in Hanoi. The last known Rafetus swinhoei living in Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake died in 2016.

The turtle in Dong Mo was first detected by conservationists in 2007. In 2020, following genetic analysis, experts said there was at least one more similar turtle living in the lake.

The two turtles were once photographed together with their heads above the water.

A plan for the conservation of the softshell turtles by the Hanoi People’s Committee for 2021-2025 proposed breeding the turtles for conservation.

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