Hanoi (VNA) – With his love and responsibility for the conservation of wild animals, Nguyen Van Long has spent a lot of time since 2017 for field trips to find descendants for Hoan Kiem turtle. Thanks to his endless efforts, a new ray of hope was seen.

After two years keeping a close watch on the giant turtle found in Dong Mo lake, on Hanoi’s outskirt town of Son Tay in 2020, Nguyen Van Long, an officer from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and scientists confirmed the individual is the near-extinct Swinhow’s Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei), or Hoan Kiem turtle. This has raised hopes for the conservation of the world’s rarest turtle in Vietnam. Some people said with joy that with the discovery, the last known male giant Swinhoe’s Softshell turtle in China’s Suzhou Zoo is no longer alone on the planet.

The female weighs 86 kilogrammes, and measures almost 1 metre in length. It was captured for genetic testing in October.

DNA tests have now confirmed the animal is a Swinhoe's softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei), the most endangered turtle in the world.

Another turtle estimated to weigh 130kg was sighted in the lake, and conservationists hope that this could be another male.

Scientists are working to ensure the turtles are given the chance to breed, and save the species from the verge of extinction. They also expect that the turtles will be brought to Hoan Kiem Lake, in Hanoi in the time to come.

According to Long, there are many small turtles in Dong Mo lake, if the 130-kilogramme turtle is a male, there is a distinct possibility that the smaller individuals weighing around 15 kilogrammes are the descendants of the Hoan Kiem turtle.

Besides, conservationists discovered another individual in nearby Xuan Khanh lake, and they will capture them to identify their sex and species this spring, Long added.

“Conservationists give top priority to pairing a male and female to prevent Hoan Kiem turtle from extinction. After they are clear about the sex of the Hoan Kiem lake turtles, they will outline specific plans on the next steps”, he said.

New hope found for most endangered turtle in Vietnam hinh anh 1The second individual of Swinhow’s Softshell turtle found in Dong Mo lake (Photo: WSC Vietnam)

The turtle has been driven to the brink as humans have hunted for its meat and eggs, as well as by destructed its habitat.

The last known female before the Vietnam discovery died in April 2019. She had been paired with the male in Suzhou Zoo in 2008; however, it had not produced offspring naturally. Artificial insemination was attempted but the female did not recover from an anaesthetic, despite similar anaesthesia procedures previously having been performed safely.

The Hoan Kiem turtle, named after the Hanoi lake where the only turtle of its kind lived, is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered and is also on the list of rare and endangered animals requiring urgent conservation efforts under a 2013 government decree. The turtle in Hoan Kiem Lake died in 2016.

The creature was first described in 1873, but there has been very little research on this giant soft-shell turtle. There are thought to be four left in the world, the other two being in China.

The species used to inhabit most of the Red River Delta, but was hunted down to near extinction in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Dong Mo Lake turtle was first discovered by Asian Turtle Program conservationists in 2007. In 2008 during the historic floods in Hanoi, it got out of the lake and was caught by local residents.

A report in 2018 concluded that turtles were among the most threatened of all the major vertebrate groups, with more than 50 percent of the 356 species threatened or already extinct. The causes are destruction of habitat, hunting for food and traditional medicine, the illegal pet trade and pollution./.

Following are several photos provided by WCS Vietnam on the process to find descendants for Hoan Kiem turtle:

New hope found for most endangered turtle in Vietnam hinh anh 2Long observes activities of Hoan Kiem turtle in Dong Mo lake. 

New hope found for most endangered turtle in Vietnam hinh anh 3Conservationists set a trap to capture the turtle.

New hope found for most endangered turtle in Vietnam hinh anh 4A giant Swinhoe’s Softshell turtle 

New hope found for most endangered turtle in Vietnam hinh anh 5There are two individuals of giant Swinhoe’s Softshell turtle in the world, one in China’s Suzhou Zoo and one in Vietnam’s Dong Mo lake. (Photo: VietnamPlus)