Wednesday, April 16, 2008

News of Vietnam's giant turtle

Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi harbors a strange inhabitant for a tiny, polluted body of water - a gigantic turtle. While it's been suggested this is a new species, scientists according to this news item have identified it as one of the world's few living specimens of Swinhoe's soft-shell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei), a species thought extinct in nature.
Well, almost extinct. The wild population outside of this lake is now known to number at least one, since biologist Nguyen Xuan Thuan has photographed a specimen in a lake west of Hanoi. That still makes a total of only four living turtles known from this species, which may measure a meter long and weigh over 140kg. (The remaining two are in zoos in China.) Biologists have now turned their attention to nearby waterways in the hope there are a few more of the huge reptiles lurking and the Swinhoe's turtle might yet be pulled back from the edge of extinction.

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