Hanoi's legendary turtle to live on through modern preservation process

By Pham Huong, Vuong Anh   April 21, 2016 | 05:15 am PT
Hanoi's legendary turtle to live on through modern preservation process
'Ho Guom' turtle. : VnExpress
Experts from Vietnam and Germany have started the preservation of the sacred turtle living in ‘Ho Guom’ that died in January.

The experts will use a method known as plastination, a state of the art technique for tissue preservation that will keep the animal preserved for a long time. The technology ensures that the sample will closely resemble the living specimen while being odorless and long-lasting. The water and fat in the cells will be sucked out before experts inject a specialized plastic into the turtle's body. When the plastic is absorbed through the cells, it will help maintain the animal's structure.

Doctor Phan Ke Long, deputy director of the Vietnam National Musium of Nature, said the process will take about a year to a year and a half as the turtle is quite big.

However, the German specialists said the turtle’s body was not in an ideal condition. Since no one knows the exact time the turtle died, the preservation procedure may not be perfect. After arriving in Vietnam, the experts immediately preserved some of the more severely decomposed parts.

Director of Hanoi's Science and Technology Department Le Xuan Rao has asked related agencies to preserve the sample for research purposes and find the cause of death without interfering with the preservation process.

The Asian Turtle Program is a regional tortoise and freshwater turtle research and conservation program based in Hanoi which has retained some DNA of the sacred turtle. The organization said that the chance of cloning this type of soft-shelled turtle was no longer possible because the harvested tissue samples did not meet the requirements.

The ancient turtle living in ‘Ho Guom’ (Sword Lake) died on January 19. In 2011, the turtle was brought up on land for ulcer treatment for more than three months before being released back into the lake. The turtle was 185cm long, 100cm wide and weighed 169kg. The cause of death is believed to be old age. While the oldest tortoise in the world is now about 180 years-old, the turtle in ‘Ho Guom’ is estimated to have lived for 200 years.

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