Friday, November 28, 2008

Rare giant turtle saved from being on menu

In Dong Mo Lake (also known as Ho Hoan Kiem) near Hanoi, Vietnam, dwells a huge freshwater turtle. It was once thought to be a legend. When its exstence was confirmed, some scientists suggested it represented a new species. That turned out not to be so, but close enough: it was a Swinhoe's soft-shelled turtle (rafetus swinhoei), a member of the most endangered reptile clan on Earth. There may be only four such turtles in the world, and their future is bleak.
It almost got bleaker when recent floods washed the Hanoi turtle out of its lake. Conservationists searched frantically for two weeks until a fisherman announced he had the 70-kg reptile and was effectively holding it for ransom. Nguyen Van Toan claimed he already had a big offer from a restaurant. He was, however, mollified by a reward of about $200 and some new fishing nets. The lonely ruler of the lake is back where he belongs.

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