According to the statement from the Asian Turtle Program (ATP) of Indo-Myanmar Conservation (IMC), the trace of another giant Swinhoe’s Softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei), also known as a Hoàn Kiếm turtle has been found in Hanoi’s Đồng Mô Lake, raising hopes for the conservation of the world’s rarest turtle in Việt Nam. The Hoàn Kiếm turtle is believed to be almost extinct in the wild. No surviving populations were known until the first wild animal was confirmed in Đồng Mô Lake on the outskirts of Hà Nội in 2007. It was a long wait until a second animal was confirmed on May 24 of the same year in nearby Xuân Khanh Lake (Sơn Tây Town) and it creates the prospects which could potentially increase the number of known living Swinhoe’s Softshell turtles to four individuals, with three in Việt Nam and one in China.
The identity of the smaller turtle’s species cannot be confirmed with these photos but, together with previous observations by staff of the ATP
Living in wetlands, streams and large rivers in Northern Việt Nam, Southern China and possibly Laos, the giant Swinhoe’s Softshell turtle can reach up to 150kg or more in size. It was heavily hunted for food from the 1970’s until the 1990’s and is believed to be almost extinct in the wild.
In January 2016, the only remaining turtle in Hoàn Kiếm Lake in the centre of Hà Nội, known as Cụ Rùa (Great-Grandfather Turtle) by Hanoians, was reported dead due to old age. It was believed to have lived for 200 years. The two turtles in Đồng Mô or more may be the only hope of conservation for this species in the world. Therefore, Đồng Mô Lake has always been strictly supervised by the authorities and conservation organisations for many years.
The ATP/IMC has partnered with the local authorities and other conservation organizations around the world to implement a conservation action plan for the species since 2003. ATP/IMC staff have been working hard at Đồng Mô for the last 13 years to record sightings and the behaviour of the large individual while working with local communities to promote conservation.
In May 2011, one staff of the ATP/IMC, who continuously monitors the Đồng Mô Lake, did see a Softshell turtle that appeared to be smaller than the big turtle that is regularly seen. Although some photographs have been captured of this individual in recent years, the images have not been clear and some doubt remained over if was only one animal being seen or not. Finally, on August 20th, 2020, Mr. Nguyễn Văn Trọng, the ATP/IMC local field officer, was able to capture a photo of two large softshell turtles emerging simultaneously. Although they appeared for only a few seconds, he was able to capture some amazing pictures.
With a number of other sites already identified by the ATP/IMC in Việt Nam, the new findings bring the hope that additional Swinhoe’s Softshell turtles may be found, giving more options for the future conservation of the world’s rarest turtle species in Việt Nam. These new photos will boost monitoring efforts at Đồng Mô and will hopefully draw more attention to the species.
(Nguồn: Bài đăng trên Tạp chí Môi trường số Chuyên đề Tiếng Anh III/2020)