|Hoan Kiem giant turtle |
(from Tran Van Minh, 2011).
The big news over here in Indochina is that the giant turtle of Hoan Kiem Lake in central Hanoi has resurfaced looking somewhat the worse for wear. If you're unfamiliar with this seriously cool but critically endangered chelonian, consider it the Vietnamese equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster. Unlike Nessie however, the Hoan Kiem turtle is definitely real, and instead of dwelling in some long, deep, mist-shrouded Scottish loch, this poor beast lives in a small, shallow, rather polluted lake smack bang in the middle of the Vietnamese capital's downtown/old city area. On a personal level, I've actually spent a not inconsiderable amount of time hanging out in nifty coffeeshops and pubs overlooking this lake, while staying in Hanoi with friends, and never once realised that those placid green waters contained a turtle of truly epic proportions.
|The Turtle Pagoda in Hoan Kiem Lake,|
downtown Hanoi (from Tran Van Minh, 2011).
The actual species of turtle is uncertain - some claim it is the Giant Chinese softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei), others that it represents a new species (Rafetus leloii) (e.g. see Heinselman, 2000; Coleman & Huyghe, 2003, pp. 181-183; Naish, 2007; Zeller, 2007). What distinguishes it from other softshell turtles is its size - this specimen is around 1.8m long, 1.2m wide, and weights 200kg. There appears to be only one of these giant turtles living in the lake, though a stuffed specimen does exist in the Ngoc Son temple on an island by the northern lakeside.
|Hoan Kiem giant turtle (the huge brown-green circular thing!),|
from Heinselman (2000).
Coleman, L. & Huyghe, P. (2003). The field guide to lake monsters, sea serpents, and other mystery denizens of the deep.
Heinselman, C. (2000). Hoan Kiem Turtle - A Tale of the Sword. Crypto 3(3), 15-18.
Naish, D. (2007, November 29). The goat-eating hot water bottle turtles. Message posted to http://scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoology/2007/11/hot_water_bottle_turtles.php
Tran Van Minh. (2011, March 4). Vietnam scrambles to save Hanoi's sacred turtle. Accessed from http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110304/ap_on_re_as/as_vietnam_sacred_turtle
Zeller, F. (2007, November 6). High-tech lake clean-up to save legendary turtle. Bangkok Post [from AFP], p. 14.