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Relative of Hoan Kiem's Legendary Turtle Found in Outskirts of Hanoi

The rare Yangtze giant softshell turtle had been keeping a low profile in Xuan Khanh Lake, but recently decided to come out of its shell.  

As VnExpress reports, an extremely rare turtle of the same species as Hoan Kiem Lake's legendary Cu Rua has been discovered in the outskirts of the city, the Asian Turtle Program (ATP) announced on Thursday.

Conservationists around the world were likely shell-shocked by the news, having previously thought there were only three Yangtze giant softshell turtles left in the world. 

By using DNA technology, staff at ATP were able to identify the turtle in Xuan Khanh Lake, which is 60 kilometers west of central Hanoi, as a member of the extremely rare Rafetus swinhoes species.

“The discovery brings new hope of mating for wild species and helps multiplication,” said Timothy McCormack, a researcher from the ATP.

A softshell turtle was first sighted at Xuan Khanh Lake in 2016, and ATP began on-site observations shortly afterwards.

A local fisherman snapped a photo of the turtle last May, which led to speculation as to whether it belonged to the critically endangered species. ATP collected water samples from the lake and sent them to Washington State University for testing, the news source shares. 

The analysis revealed that the animal is in fact of the same species as Hoan Kiem's deceased legend. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Turtle Conservation Coalition, the creature is one of the world's 25 most-endangered turtles.  

There are only four members of the species left in the world, one of which lives in Hanoi's Dong Mo Lake. The other two remaining turtles can be found in Suzhou Zoo in China. 

The reptile is held close to people's hearts in Vietnam, and is more commonly referred to as the Sword Lake turtle. The name derives from a mythical Golden Turtle God that lived in Hoan Kiem Lake, and presented Emperor Le Loi with a sword. 

In January 2016, the only remaining turtle in Hoam Kiem Lake, known as Cu Rua (Great-Grandfather Turtle) by Hanoians, died due to old age, possibly hastened by pollution. It was believed to have lived for 200 years. 

[Photo via VnExpress]

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